The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 18, 2010

ROBIN L. QUILLON | On casino deal, no thanks, Senator

— On Wednesday, this newspaper reported that state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, is proposing that a state license for a Philadelphia casino – which has not gotten off the ground – be reissued in the Cambria-Somerset region. It would be an economic generator that would bring in additional jobs and revenue, he said.

“The new casino would create construction jobs immediately, long-term employment at the facility itself and boost economic activity and tourism in our region,” Wozniak said.

He pointed out that the Cambria-Johnstown area and Laurel Mountain region have no gaming industry.

We know, Senator, and that is exactly the way it should stay!

Wozniak has introduced legislation that would allow for the license that was issued to Foxwoods to be made available outside of Philadelphia. He said that he believes there would be interested investors and that a casino could be built quickly in the Cambria-Johnstown area once a license became available.

We do not need a casino in Johnstown or in Somerset or Cambria counties. The long-term benefits to a community are a mirage. This snake oil has been sold across the country countless times by politicians who lack the ability to cut spending, balance a budget, and live within their means. 

The risks and community cost associated with this legislation are too high. This proposal should be stopped in its tracks.

County commissioners should step up immediately and say no thank you, putting an end to this idea before it takes hold. 

Yes, a casino would generate a temporary boost in construction. But everyone knows casinos are built by losers. In a community, they are the equivalent of a black hole for local commerce. In space, black holes are so powerful that nothing can escape their grasp. By their very design, a casino will, with impunity, suck up every discretionary dollar in its community and surrounding areas.

No restaurant can compete with the heavily discounted meals and free drinks offered by gambling complexes.

Tourism would suffer because those coming here would not venture beyond the all-you-can-eat casino buffets.

The hotels and motels would suffer as a result of the complimentary rooms offered as a standard practice of the casino business model. 

Discretionary income of individuals would be hit hard. And their ability to repay loans and retain insurance and other business services would be weakened.   

Unlike black holes in space, casinos will eventually let you go – once they have emptied your pockets.

They do not ask, nor do they care, whether you can afford to gamble.

To gamble, you are not required to fill out an application or undergo an inspection of your creditworthiness.

They will never inquire about your family or your health.

A casino is a destination in and of itself and stands alone in a community.

Their owners’ philosophy is simple: Come in, stay, we have everything you need. There is no need to go anywhere else.

Steve Wynn, a casino owner, has been reported as saying, “Get it straight … there is no reason on earth for any of you to expect for more than one second that just because there are people at casinos, they’re going to run into your store, or restaurant, or bar.”

The Miami Herald quoted Donald Trump as saying, “People will spend a tremendous amount of money in casinos, money that they would normally spend on buying a refrigerator or a new car.

“Local businesses will suffer because they lose customer dollars to the casinos.”

Senator Wozniak, consider these words of Baylor University economist Earl Grinols: “Casinos absorb existing entertainment, restaurant and hotel business, and take dollars that would otherwise be available to other local retail businesses.”

Thanks, but no thanks, Senator.

And know this: This newspaper will oppose this legislation vigorously!

Robin L. Quillon is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at rquillon@tribdem.com.

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