March 6, 2008

From the Desk of Phil Burress
President of Citizens for Community Values
Citizens’ E-Courier · March 6, 2008

With a pot of gold slot machine tokens at the end of every casino rainbow, some folks are determined to drag Ohio back to the ballot in another attempt to expand gambling. Barely a year after voters handed gamblers their third ballot loss at the polls in November 2006, a private group from Beachwood, Ohio is seeking to become the next pit bosses for the state.

It’s no surprise that their petition effort has already stirred significant controversy, particularly in the Wilmington community where they want to build their “$600 Million Ultimate Ohio Destination Resort and Casino” behemoth. After the local residents were stunned with the announcement that they would be the recipients of the manna from casino heaven, many said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The gamblers noted the objections and said they wouldn’t “force this down [their] throats if the community says ‘no, this doesn’t fit.'” Petitions were then promptly printed, draperies ordered, and paint color picked out. So much for wanting to be good neighbors.

Not surprisingly, it took them multiple attempts to get their petitions approved for circulation because the Attorney General declared them “not fair and truthful.” Anyone surprised by that finding? I doubt any casino knows what the truth in advertising laws say or mean?

Then we had one of their spokemen, Dr. Bradford Pressman, claim that “there is clearly a meaningful segment of Clinton County citizens that views the proposed casino project as being beneficial. A News Journal poll documents 63 percent of the residents feel that way.”

Come to find out the “poll” was just an online survey on the local newspaper’s website where the casino had a ballot box stuffing party. Their landslide support came from about 250 people from anywhere in the world (not just Clinton County) who could vote as many times as they wanted. Dr. Pressman called it “facts” in his op-ed but it sounds more like quackery to me.

LOOK TO HISTORY FOR THE TRUTH

They told us in 1973 that approving a state-run lottery would solve our education funding crisis, and look where that has gotten us. No one believes that worked and no one should believe this will either. The promise of vast amounts of jobs, wealth, economic development and prosperity is just another gimmick to try to sell the voters on casinos again.

Below you’ll find a great column that was syndicated by the Boston Globe today that I think confirms why we oppose casinos. It’s not because we want to live in NO-HIO. It’s because people are hurt by them and we care about people.

This year you’ll hear Ohio’s gambling campaigns deny these facts over and over again. But denial doesn’t change history. Don’t worry about what they say. You know the truth. Just make sure you, your family and friends are all registered to vote just in case they make it to the ballot on November 4, 2008.


THE BOSTON GLOBE

The ills casinos bring
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist  |  March 4, 2008

AT BEST, destination casinos are in places that generally remain checkered destinations for daily living. This is worth remembering as Governor Deval Patrick’s claim of 30,000 new construction jobs for three resort casinos appears to be crumbling. An independent analysis done this week for the Globe says that as little as 4,000 to 5,000 jobs might be created. Even the Massachusetts Building Trades Council projects just 20,000 jobs.

Just as important, it is unclear what casinos change. Take Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and the state of Mississippi. I know, I know, Patrick says we will not become another Las Vegas. And I have written that I would rather have resort casinos instead of the lottery. But some minor details just dog the argument about casinos being an economic engine.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Atlantic City casino industry is in the midst of spending $20 billion to rehab its fading image as a Las Vegas wannabe.

Las Vegas casinos are in the midst of spending $35 billion to brighten their already blinding image.

The first thing Mississippi did after Hurricane Katrina was make sure the Gulf Coast casinos reopened, changing all kinds of rules, including ones that allow them to be built on land instead of being constrained to structures floating on water.

Atlantic City, after three decades of having casinos, was described by the Economist as a place where “multi-million dollar casinos are steps away from crime-ridden neighborhoods. A quarter of the 40,000 residents live below the poverty line.”

The Associated Press described it a year ago as a place where “A stone’s throw from the glittering, billion-dollar casinos, thousands of people live in grinding poverty in rundown houses surrounded by drugs and prostitutes. These are the neighborhoods that the state requires casinos to help by setting aside a portion of their revenue for development projects.”

It was exposed last year that the state allowed the casinos to take a significant portion of money that was supposedly meant to clean up such neighborhoods and funnel it back in their own projects.

The New York Times wrote, “Atlantic City continues to grapple with blocks of dilapidated buildings and seamy motels that draw drug dealers and prostitutes, all within the shadows of towering, brightly lighted casinos.”

In Mississippi, The Washington Post wrote in November, “Nowhere has the rebound from Hurricane Katrina been gaudier than along Mississippi’s casino-studded coast. Even as the storm’s debris was being cleared, this city’s night sky was lighted up with the high-wattage brilliance of the Imperial Palace, then the Isle of Capri, then the Grand Casino . . . Yet in the wrecked and darkened working-class neighborhoods just blocks from the waterfront glitter, those lights cast their colorful glare over an apocalyptic vision of empty lots and scattered trailers that is as forlorn as anywhere in Katrina’s strike zone.”

This is despite those casinos racking up in 2007 a new record for revenues, nearly $3 billion.

Last fall, 24 ministers in the region said in a letter to state officials, “our Recovery Effort has failed to include a place at the table . . . for our poor and vulnerable.” Not to mention that Mississippi remains in the bottom five, according to statistics of the National Education Association, in per-pupil public school spending.

Nevada’s casinos racked up a record $12.8 billion in revenues in 2007. But the Toronto Star wrote in January, “Nevada also leads in other areas, such as gun deaths, suicide and now home foreclosures. It has one of the worst public school systems in the United States. Bankruptcies are high. It ranks below average for the number without health insurance.”

According to the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, Las Vegas ranks 43d out of 50 major metropolitan areas in high school graduation rate, second to last for its college graduation rate, and dead last for its volunteer rate.

The residents of Las Vegas are so disconnected that its volunteer rate of 14.4 percent is at least doubled by 25 other cities (Boston’s volunteer rate is 27.5 percent).

The Toronto Star quoted William Epstein, a social work professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as saying, “The state is intriguing. It’s very wealthy. Yet the services are near the bottom.”

That should be intriguing to Patrick if he goes ahead with his casinos.

There is little to suggest from the Atlantic City, Mississippi, or Las Vegas experience with destination casinos that those at the bottom will rise up.

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company