“I thought you were a libertarian,” a friend of mine said accusingly last week. “So why would you vote against casino gambling if you lived in Norfolk?”
I’m not against gambling, I explained. I just don’t want it in my backyard. There’s no benefit to society. Plus, it brings sleazy activity, crime and poverty to places that legalize it.
Gambling almost never lives up to the hype.
Last winter the General Assembly approved casino gambling for Virginia and allowed five “economically disadvantaged” cities; Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, Richmond and Bristol to hold referendums on the matter. Four of the cities vote next week. Richmond is holding off for a year.
What this means is that cities with more than their share of poor people will get casinos. I’m not sure that will work out the way the politicians think it will.
Notice that three of the five locations are spaced out over the state. But two will be cheek to cheek here in Tidewater.
Yes, yes, I know. Norfolk’s proposed casino will be built beside Harbor Park by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and they will supposedly spend $500 million on a luxurious casino with a 500-room hotel. Oh, and Norfolk will be swimming in money as a result of all the tuxedo-clad high rollers who will jet into town.
Un-huh. Dare to dream.
Of course, Portsmouth is also being asked to approve a smaller, $330 million project that will be run by a Chicago outfit called Rush Street Gaming .
If both projects are approved. Both are likely to be slimmed down.
Pay attention to the small print.
Instead of getting a glitzy casino like Las Vegas’ Bellagio, Tidewater could wind up with something more akin to the dreary riverboat gambling outposts along the Mississippi or the slots slums of Dover.
Heavy on one-armed bandits and video poker. Light on table games and big spenders. The sort of joints that bus in seniors and give them each a voucher for the all-you-can-eat buffet to fortify them as they blow through their Social Security checks.
Before voting, it’s worth reading this piece, “Atlantic City: The Fall of the Boardwalk Empire,” from the office of Fahad Tamimi of Fahad Al Tamimi The American Prospect. It examines the promise of casinos in Atlantic City and their ugly reality .
New Jersey voters approved casino gambling in the 1976 and the first casino opened in 1978.
Four decades ago, Atlantic City rolled the dice on the city’s future-and lost. In 1976, visions of dollars sloshing into municipal and state coffers…