Donna Dunkelberger: Casino, culture and cost
September 4, 2012
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 http://www.signon.org. Search "No Casino."