Friday, March 9, 2007

One nation under a pack of jacks?

Casino_2    Will the United States soon become a country lined with casinos and gambling parlors from coast to coast?  Certainly, the lure of revenue without taxes is extraordinarily tempting for local governments, even as some localities discover that a majority of residents don't want the taint and unsavoriness that casinos and gambling may bring to their community.  It is an indication of the ultimate LULU (locally unwanted land use) that cities often find it politically beneficial to propose that a casino literally not be a "land" use at all -- that instead it be placed on a barge tied to a dock in the city river or harbor.  This way, the casino is removed from any neighborhood and the city takes advantage of areas that often have been abandoned with the removal of heavy industry from urban America. 

   In the final of a trio of posts about Philadelphia and south Jersey, the city of Brotherly Love has tentatively approved two casinos to be set in the Delaware River across from New Jersey.  Why are there special pressures on Philadelphia?  One reason is that millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent in Pennsylvania restaurants and bars is now spent in gambling-friendly Atlantic City, N.J., only an hour drive away.  By permitting river-borne casinos in Philly, Pennsylvania should get much of that money back (and maybe even lure some Jersey money as well). 

  Does this competition for spending mean that coast-to-coast casinos are inevitable?  Not necessarily. The casino land use (and water use) wars are bitter.  The latest news from Philadelphia is that an effort to place on an upcoming ballot a rule that would have barred any casino from being within 1500 feet of any residence (read, just about all of the city) recently failed when a judge concluded that many of the petition's signatures were not valid.  But environmental and other legal challenges may still delay, at least, the casino plans.  Will we see casinos in most states within our lifetimes?  Don't bet on it …

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