Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Casino for Broadway Commons -- Bad Idea

I try to stay away from political issues in the pulpit -- and generally I try to stay away from them in this blog. However, Cincinnati City Council is moving quickly on a very dangerous proposition, and I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you.

Simply put, certain council members are pushing for a casino in downtown Cincinnati (see the full story from the Enquirer). Tammy and I believe that this is dangerous and will dramatically harm the quality of life in Cincinnati. Here are some resources to inform you on the impact of gambling. Steve Carr has a well thought out post on this one. Andrew Warner also lends his voice on the issue.

We wrote an email to all our city council members -- the text is below:
Council Members,

My wife and I have followed with dismay the story about the proposed casino for Broadway Commons -- we are very upset that several of you who we elected as leaders have been key players in promoting this possibility.

We are both 34 year old non-natives to Cincinnati. We moved to Cincinnati in part because it has a great reputation as being a family centered city. Since we've been here, we've seen that this is indeed a great town. Cincinnati is a center for business, industry, and the arts. Cincinnati is an elegant and classy city with world class sports teams. Cincinnati is a hub for the branding industry and home to several Fortune 500 companies. Cincinnati is blessed with great natural resources from parks to strong community organizations to rich local traditions. Will you cheapen all of this by selling out to gambling interests? Please, build upon the present greatness of this city -- don't tear it down in a neurotic attempt to copy someplace else.

It is our firm conviction that a casino for downtown will only cause more problems than it creates. John Kindt, Ph.D., professor of commerce and legal policy at the University of Illinois, testified before Congress in 1994 that for every dollar of revenue generated by gambling, taxpayers must dish out at least three dollars in increased criminal-justice costs, social-welfare expenses, high regulatory costs, and increased infrastructure expenditures. Putting a casino so close to the precarious situation of Over-the Rhine is a recipie for disaster.

In his 2003 State of the State address, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn confessed his frustration with reliance upon gambling revenues:

"For years, our economy has depended almost exclusively on tourism and gaming [gambling], rather than by exporting goods and services. Three out of every four of our tax dollars are collected from sales and gaming taxes; taxes vulnerable to swings in the economy. … Implicit in this tax strategy was a belief that the revenues from gaming and tourism could keep pace with our growing and diverse population. Unfortunately, this strategy has failed. … My fellow Nevadans, the lesson from the last 20 years is clear; our revenue system is broken because it has relied on regressive and unstable taxes [from gambling]."

Statistics about the quality of life in Nevada bear out the immense social cost of reliance upon gambling (these statistics were as of 1999):

Nevada has the highest suicide rate, nearly double the national average.
Nevada has the highest divorce rate.
Nevada has the highest percentage of high school dropouts.
Nevada has the fourth-highest percentage of out-of-wedlock births.
Nevada has the third-highest abortion rate.
Nevada has the fourth-highest incidence of rape.

Gambling addiction has destroyed the lives of celebrities such as golfer John Daley, OJ Simpson, and our own Pete Rose. We fear that the city is playing with fire it does not understand. Though the allure of recapturing the dollars flying to Lawrenceburg seems appealing, we plead with you to stop pushing for a casino.

Respectfully Yours

Russell and Tammy Smith
Pleasant Ridge

If you feel so led to join us in writing them, their addresses are,,,,,,,,