Donna Dunkelberger: Casino, culture and cost

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Yes, I agree that adults can make their own decision to give (lose) their money to the casino owner. Yes, I agree that there may be jobs created by developing a big building of services and games. But do we really want the other side of the casino world creeping in and invading our mountain town’s culture?

On a recent trip back home to Philadelphia, I happened to be out at 1 a.m. I was in a suburb where I had grown up and was often out at that time of the morning. I was comfortable, and we didn’t notice at first the change in culture. We went with my brother’s race team to the car wash, where they go to clean the mud off the race car, before going back to the garage. When my 80-year-old father and I went next door to the WAWA (a 7-Eleven clone) for coffee, under the bright lights, I was feeling a bit vulnerable among the night stalkers. Maybe the styles have changed since I lived there, but I was feeling kind of plain. I can’t say for sure, but they looked like ladies of the night with their johns, getting java right next to me.

Then a couple of interesting gents, draped in gold, staggered in and past us, speaking in expletives. On our way out the door, heading back to the car wash, I stepped over the guy sitting on the sidewalk, drinking out of the paper bag. I think the guys leaning on their cars with music playing may have had a sale on some inventory, as there was a line forming. It felt kind of uncomfortable all of a sudden. So, I said to my brother, “Is it always this funky around here on Saturday night?” and he replied “Oh yeah, ever since they opened the Casino at Philadelphia Park.” (Philadelphia Park is a horse-racing track that started a casino to save it. Save what? The neighborhood?)

So, that is a true story from May of this year. But on a very serious note of concern, as a resident of Steamboat for the past 14 years, I would like to know who is going to pay for the problems that will inevitably come from this great new project.

We will pay culturally, as our healthy, active, sporting and ranching lifestyles mix with the culture fascinated by casino gambling. But as I observe the police blotter becoming longer and longer year after year with more reports of drunken drivers, robberies, thefts and drug arrests, I wonder: Are we ready to hire more police officers and to buy more police cars? Are we ready to add on to the jail with more cells and detox beds? Are we equipped in our towns with enough mental health counselors to handle the issues that will arise? Does our hospital have enough beds in the emergency room to handle the influx? Who will pay? And who will win?

If you’re against the proposed casino in Hayden, sign an online petition at www.signon.org. Search “No Casino.”

Donna Dunkelberger

Steamboat Springs

Comments

jon schafer 1 year, 11 months ago

I have been watching the Casino project with great interest and have been very careful to not rush to judgment until more facts are known and I urge everyone to do the same. When I read this letter however, I felt compelled to write in, as I currently split my time between Steamboat and Philadelphia, so I feel particularly well qualified to comment on the analogy drawn here.

Firstly, I believe it is a huge mistake for individuals on all sides to jump to any conclusions. Not all casinos are bad, nor are they all good: to attempt to frame the debate in this manner is foolish, a vast over-simplification and an illogical method to rationally assess the potential impact on Steamboat. I am not a gambler, but I do have personal experience with very nice casinos. I do a mountain bike race in Lake Tahoe in which I always stay at the Casino in the Hyatt, not for the gambling, but because it is a very nice place to stay. With all due respect to the author of this letter, I have stayed there many times and I have yet to see any hookers, johns or any of the other "funky" types described in her piece.

I go skiing in Argentina and always stay in the local hotel with the casino, as it is again, the nicest property. The only colorful characters I've ever run into there were a Formula 1 race car driver and his model girlfriend. Casinos can work and will work, IF they are properly designed, planned and administered.

Regarding the references in the letter to the Philadelphia, please allow me to be clear - Philadelphia can be a very tough and unpleasant place. We mountain bike in a park in which dead bodies are found all too frequently and shootings are commonplace. Do all of these nefarious things happen because of our casinos? Absolutely not. In fact, Philadelphia has generally improved in the last 10 years (coincidentally somewhat parallel to the arrival of the casinos in town).

I would therefore like to again urge everyone to move forward with a keen focus and emphasis on the facts. Quite frankly, I am still undecided on the merits of a casino in Steamboat, but I am keeping an open mind. I am good friends with members of City Council, whose judgment I trust and value. I am very close friends with Johnny Spillane, a lifelong resident who I know from repeated, extensive discussions on this issue, would never do anything to hurt the incredible atmosphere and wholesome environment we have in Steamboat.

As a community, we need to ask fair, tough questions and challenge everyone for data to support their conclusions. Plowing forward while ignoring the facts is a mistake from all sides of this issue. By staying focused on the data, addressing legitimate concerns in an intelligent and constructive manner and having rational dialogue on what needs to be done to have this a positive in our community, everyone can and will win.

Jon Schafer Steamboat/Philadelphia resident

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Mark Mueller 1 year, 11 months ago

The same argument presented in the letter could be used to fight having the ski resort in Steamboat - skiing draws it's own share of funky types to the area.

Also, it's a huge stretch to compare a presumably well run future casino in a very remote location to a struggling casino in a Philadelphia suburb. There may be relevant information out there to help one decide to sign the petition, but this certainly isn't it and that's unfortunate.

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Ulrich Salzgeber 1 year, 11 months ago

Great comments. I also have not decided whether I am for or against the casino project. The one thing I don't want to be is an elitist Steamboatite. If a Casino can help the struggling economies of Hayden and Craig than I am probably in favor . Again, we are not talking about an MGM grand here. I also know that hotel near the airport would be beneficial for the flight crews that overnight and would alleviate times when the evening flights are cancelled and there are no rooms available in Steamboat.

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