Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Last Call

This will probably be my last post before they announce the winner of the big slots license for Pittsburgh on Wednesday. I can't say that I was ever a fan of the slots proposal, so you won't read any fawning praise for any of the plans here. If it were up to me, I would have bought the slots license myself and either thrown it into the trash or sold it to, let's say, Wilmerding and let them deal with it.

No matter who "wins" tomorrow, it will be very likely that the City of Pittsburgh will lose in the long run. The proposals talk glowingly about the number of jobs that the casinos will create, the tax revenue that will be generated, the property tax relief that will happen, a brand spanking new arena, and so on and so forth. They also talk about social cost mitigation, traffic flow, gambling addiction, and all the nasty parts of the business.

In the end, however, the assurances will not be adequate, the projections will be wrong, and we'll be left with the short end of the stick.

I base this prognostication on nothing more than a cynical understanding of human nature and politics, so take it for what it's worth.

But here's what really worries me about the slots parlour: there is no foreseeable exit strategy.

Think of the steel mills. Imagine, if you would, that the State gave beaucoup money to fund the steel industry. In the process of creating revenue and jobs, the mills polluted the air, the ground, and the water. Then the mills collapsed leaving the pollution, unemployment, and loss of revenue for others to deal with.

Yeah, imagine if something like that had happened.

Now, consider these questions: Can the casino go out of business? What happens if it does? Who cleans up all the crap at the end of the day if they go bust? Is this a long term sustainable solution to generating tax revenue and improving the quality of life in the City? In 50 years, when the parlour is either a Trump Megacasino or an over glorified bingo hall, will we be ready for the consequences of today's actions?

I'm thinking the answers are: yes, bad stuff, the tax payer, no, and no.

So, the battle will be over tomorrow, but the war will linger for a long while.

I'm not optimistic, but you can check out Fester to see how he skinned this cat.


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