Jon Schafer: Jumping to conclusions
September 18, 2012
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 an earlier letter to the editor, however, I felt compelled to write. Because I split my time between Steamboat Springs and Philadelphia, I feel particularly well qualified to comment on the analogy drawn in that letter ("Donna Dunkelberger: Casino, culture and cost," Sept. 5 Steamboat Today).
First, I think 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 oversimplification and an illogical method to assess the potential impact on Steamboat rationally. 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 the earlier 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 again, it is 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 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 generally has improved in the past 10 years (coincidentally somewhat parallel to the arrival of the casinos in town).
Therefore, I again would like to urge everyone to move forward with a keen focus and emphasis on the facts. Quite frankly, I still am undecided about the merits of a casino in Steamboat, but I am keeping an open mind. I am good friends with Steamboat Springs City Council members 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, never would 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 be a positive in our community, everyone can and will win.
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