A number of letters to the editor and other articles in the past months have voiced opposition to a casino in our community. It is true that the casino may offer some jobs and some stimulation to the local economy. It will ride on the back of other tourism to the valley, especially skiing. It will spread the economic pie from skiing. Everybody wants our county residents to have more job opportunities and the economy stimulated. The question is: Do we want a casino to do this? Are there better alternatives?
The problem with bringing a casino to our community is the value system behind it and the kinds of values gambling reinforces, especially in children. Gambling comes from a value system that says you can get rich quick with little effort. In fact, casinos are all about luring the general public into thinking that they will have luck and win big money while having fun. Of the 51 casinos in Colorado, 10 have names that make you think you can win big-time: Easy Street, Famous Bonanza, Gold Rush, Gold Diggers, Golden Gates, Golden Gulch, Lady Luck, Golden Mardi Gras, Richman and Winner’s Haven. It is all a ruse.
Casinos make money because the house always wins. Whereas most businesses sell a product or create value through services, casinos make money only because the odds ensure it. Think of casinos as glittery sponges that suck money while keeping the customer just a little bit tipsy with cheap alcohol. Is this a value we want to support? I can even see this tactic (not the alcohol) being used in the community meetings led by the Sleeping Giant Group. They are promising many jobs, good pay and a revived economy. They say, in effect, “bet on us and you will win.” There is no way we can be sure of that.
A second value system problem with gambling is that it is designed to tap into or create an addiction. It is designed to feed the addiction. This creates problem and pathological gamblers. Perhaps not all gamblers have problems, but just like other addictions, as long as you feed it, it will be there. Addictions have fall-out for families and communities: bankruptcy, divorce, child neglect. Casinos also feed alcohol addiction through cheap drinks to lower inhibitions. Three casino names in Colorado allude to easy women: Midnight Rose, Scarlet’s and Red Dolly. Casinos are known to increase the temptation for illegal activities. Of course, these vices are already in our society. It is just that a casino concentrates these problems into one area and then feeds them.
Saying “yes” to a casino is saying “yes” to this value system. Is this what we want in return for economic improvement?
There is an alternative. For example, the Yampa Valley Crane Festival this week has the potential to attract hundreds of tourists to our valley in the years to come. We live in a beautiful area of the world. We could grow our economy based on solid values of appreciating our pristine environment and wildlife. We could market the natural assets we already have and be proud that we have not acculturated our children, or anyone else’s children, to the very vices and addictions that degrade our society. Let’s be different.