Expanding gambling to raise revenue — a San Jose ballot measure creates a moral dilemma

Photo: @Kaysha / Unsplash
By Wesley Severson - Published on November 02, 2020.

Voters in San Jose will decide on a plan in this election to raise taxes on two casinos operating in the city. Measure H, also known as the Cardroom Tax, would increase the gross revenue tax for Bay 101 Casino and Casino Matrix from 15% to 16.5% while expanding the number of gaming tables. 

This would generate roughly $15 million dollars for the city of San Jose’s general fund which the city desperately needs. In April, as reported by the Mercury News, the city said it expected to be dealing with a $110 million dollar budget shortfall over the next two years because of the pandemic.

But there is a tradeoff inside Measure H that has many people, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, publicly coming out against the measure. The plan would allow 30 new card tables to open up in the city. That means Bay 101 Casino and Casino Matrix could each add 15 new tables to their gaming areas. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has spoken out against expansions in the gambling sector for years. He told KPIX that he believes the potential social impacts of more gambling options will end up costing the city in the long run in the form of social services.

"The child neglect, the domestic violence that results. Social science has found direct links to gambler activity and gambling addiction," said Mayor Liccardo. He told KPIX the city could have increased taxes on the casinos without expanding the number of tables.

But some other city officials believe that Measure H is still worth the potential harms for the city — and gambling already exists there, so what's a few more tables? Casino Matrix and Bay 101 Casino are in the district of San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez who supports the measure.

He said to KPIX that the city needs the extra $15 million dollars to pay for obvious things like police and fire services and road maintenance. 

San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis also supports the measure. He told the San Jose Spotlight that he believes gamblers will simply go somewhere else if San Jose casinos don’t expand.

If Measure H passes it would mark the first expansion of card tables in San Jose in a decade. Adding more table games still requires voter approval, according to the city's gaming policy.

Measure H also creates a new tax that would generate revenue from 3rd party proposition players like banks and other financial services that help casinos run their day-to-day operations.

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