Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bread and circuses

I don't know enough about the three casino proposals to say with confidence whether the state Gaming Control Board made the right decision in awarding PITG the city's lone casino license. I do think that the North Shore was the best location for a casino; it's relatively isolated from residential neighborhoods with decent access to transportation and parking. And it just might lead people to use the boondogle that is the North Shore Connector.

I am bemused at the tantrums thrown by supporters of the Isle of Capri's plan, whose biggest selling point appeared to be that it would provide funding for a new "multi-purpose facility" (hockey arena). I don't understand why people believe that government power or funding should be expended to provide homes to professional sports teams--which are, after all, private businesses. (Mike Madison has been talking sense on this issue at Pittsblog, here and here.)

Isle of Capri pledged $290 million toward a new arena. But what about cost overruns? Would they have paid those? And who would have received the revenues from this facility? Mario Lemieux recently referred to the proposed arena as a public facility, which meant it would not generate property taxes. Does that mean the public would have gotten the revenues from non-hockey events? Because that's not how things worked out at PNC Park or Heinz Field.

Proponents endorsed the Isle of Capri plan because of its promise of a privately funded arena. But the casino licensees are expected--required, I believe--to make contributions to their communities. So money spent on a hockey arena would not have been spent on more pressing needs, of which Pittsburgh has many. (The same goes with the money promised by PITG toward Plan B.) The idea that public officials should have awarded the casino license based on its impact on a hockey team would be laughable were it not so indicative of the quality of governance to which we have grown sadly accustomed.

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Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

i don't like the casino anywhere. now i know how you and sam feel about subsidized condos. but the people in the condos and the developers aren't sucking the income out of the poor suckers who yank those slot handles all day, day after day. that place won't be filled with high rollers. everyone knows that. there's no glamour in a slot machine. can't wait to see the senior citizen tour buses coming in from meadeville.

12:50 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Believe me, Sean, if someone told me that I had to choose between a casino built entirely with private funds on that land, and million-dollar condos built by the government, I'd probably choose the latter.

If this state insisted on expanding legalized gambling--which morally I have no quibble with--then they should have confined it to where it already exists, the race tracks. Hell, let the race tracks have full casinos, with table games and everything. Most are at least somewhat isolated from residential areas.

I do think that the gaming board chose the least bad option, although quite frankly I'm not surprised. Even public officials in this state are not cynical enough to have allowed it to be built in the Hill District, and there were too many questions over Harrah's.

8:55 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

hell, i'd rather see a brothel next to the science center. whorehouses don't attract grannies and clean out their social security checks in an hour. as far as quibbles with government, the war in iraq is number one now. legalized gambling is always near the top. i really think gambling of any type affects more people than drugs and alcohol...though to be fair, you can bet and drive without killing anyone.

12:55 PM


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