Our View: Time to fold on Hayden casino proposal
September 22, 2012
With tepid community response and hard-line opposition from the governor, it's time for the development group proposing an Indian casino for Hayden to reassess its hand. And when members of the Sleeping Giant Group partnership convene next week to discuss the future of their proposal, they ought to consider folding.
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who is second in command to Gov. John Hickenlooper, said in no uncertain terms last week that their administration will not support an off-reservation Indian casino in Northwest Colorado. Their reasons are simple.
"Right now, we don't see that Coloradans in general are supportive of more gaming, and we do not see — based on the casinos that are in existence now — that it is likely that a new casino operation, wherever it was located in Colorado, would be terribly successful," Garcia told the Steamboat Today.
Garcia specifically questioned the benefits of casinos, a sentiment we share.
Steamboat Springs resident Steve Hofman, a leader of the Sleeping Giant Group, and his partners can blame Front Range politics and competing interests all they want, but the truth is that Hickenlooper and Garcia hit the nail on the head when they questioned the economic value of casinos. The Sleeping Giant Group has pitched its project as an economic panacea for Northwest Colorado, a job creator and money producer that would line the pockets of local governments while boosting tourism to Steamboat Springs and raising its profile in the ultra-competitive mountain resort marketplace.
We've been more than a bit skeptical of those projections from the start, given the very history of casinos not living up to expectations to which the governor's office alluded. And while the developers have sought to dismiss worries about negative social impacts from a casino in Routt County, we think those concerns have validity.
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But back to the more immediate point. Hickenlooper's administration made it clear last week that the governor has no interest in additional casinos in Colorado. To that end, they did a favor to Sleeping Giant Group and all of Northwest Colorado by not encouraging a drawn-out process doomed to die on the governor's desk. Frankly, the stance by the governor's office shouldn't be overly surprising to anyone, especially the Sleeping Giant Group. Surely they entered this process knowing the odds of making it past the governor's desk were, at best, 50-50.
Hickenlooper's term is up in two years, but the popular governor would be a strong candidate for re-election if he seeks it. That leaves Sleeping Giant Group with limited options: Wait for some future date when a pro-casino politician occupies the governor's mansion, or attempt to rally overwhelming community support for the project and challenge Hickenlooper to reconsider.
The latter seems like the longest of long shots. Throughout the past six months, Sleeping Giant has pitched its casino plan in numerous community meetings and forums. So far, public enthusiasm for the effort has been limited.
It might be time for Sleeping Giant to get up from the table and find another game.