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Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2003

Time to roll the dice here on a casino?

Some items while trusting you remembered to “spring forward” this morning:

WORTH A SHOT?: When it comes to controversial national issues, I'm still in the neutral zone on two big ones -- affirmative action (specifically, the University of Michigan case) and gun control. I can be swayed by the arguments of each side.

Same goes for an issue that shows up every so often on Toledo's radar screen -- casino gambling.

I'll admit, though, only a few toes remain in the neutral zone on this one. With each passing year, I find the “for” arguments to be far more persuasive.

When I read that Toledo Councilman Bob McCloskey had written state and federal lawmakers urging them to legalize casino gambling in Ohio, I wondered why he was being a “lone wolf.” After that initial skepticism faded, the article started to emit positive vibes.

Why? Because the time seems right for a serious public dialogue on this highly charged issue. And to his credit, Mr. McCloskey is willing to lead the discussion.

Tell me a casino on Toledo's riverfront wouldn't revitalize downtown. In a hurry.

Tell me that with a new baseball stadium, a new arena, and a new riverfront casino, Toledo wouldn't become an upper-tier “destination” for day trippers.

Still, the “social cost” of gambling is what keeps a few of my toes inside the neutral zone. Gambling has led to the financial ruin of countless people.

The “social cost” argument was far more convincing three or four decades ago, when Nevada was about the only legal option for gambling. These days, I need two hands to count all of the casinos within a four-hour drive of Toledo.

Like it or not, the stigma once attached to gambling no longer exists.

Casino gambling is so accessible that the “social cost” argument has been effectively diluted. If your neighbor is going to risk his life savings playing blackjack or craps, does it really matter if it happens in Detroit or Toledo?

It's been eight years since a riverboat casino opened in Evansville, Ind., which is 50 miles from my hometown. I called a close friend who lives in Evansville and asked him for an objective assessment of the casino's impact.

He said it has been a “win-win situation.” He praised the casino for its entertainment value and for being a good corporate citizen. He said the crime fears -- theft, drugs, prostitution, etc. -- never materialized. Lastly, almost as an afterthought, he mentioned the tax revenue it generates, which, in these times of severe budget crunches, makes a very compelling “for” argument.

Interestingly, I read last week that Evansville's mayor dropped plans for a downtown minor-league baseball stadium.

Maybe these quiet Midwestern cities could learn from each other. Toledo could teach Evansville about the positive impact of a downtown baseball stadium, and Evansville could teach Toledo about the positive impact of a riverfront casino.

SAY WHAT?: In a recent e-mail, a minister from Oklahoma challenged me to defend my position in the recent Dixie Chicks controversy. We had a pleasant e-mail exchange. But I didn't know what to make of his final sentence: “Now I can say I respect you even though you are in the media.”

QUESTIONABLE: Sorry, no questions again this week. Blame it on Dixie Chicks (e-mail) burnout.



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