ShareThis Page
Featured Commentary

Reed Pederson: With mini casino, some will win, some will lose

| Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Reed Pederson
Reed Pederson

Recently, our state legislators bestowed upon us more personal freedom. We can buy consumer-grade fireworks without driving to another state, and we'll be able to gamble without driving to another county.

With an estimated $75 billion in unfunded public pension liabilities, expect more freedom. Look for legalization of recreational marijuana and perhaps, far in the future, prostitution (don't bet against it). And sometime after that, we might even get privatization of the state alcohol system, with convenience like in other states.

It isn't about freedom, of course; it's about feeding the Harrisburg spending machine. The upcoming Westmoreland County mini casino can have up to 40 table games and 750 slot machines. The winning bid for the license was just over $40 million. With that kind of money on the line, the casino will be a major operation, likely to have a major effect on the county's character. The question is whether the good will outweigh the bad.

If you believe the hype, everyone will be a winner. But gambling has always been about winners and losers. The only guaranteed winners are state and local governments — they know a jackpot when they see one. The state rakes in about $3.8 million per day in slot-machine and table-game taxes, regardless of whether casinos are profitable — $1.4 billion in 2015-16.

When legalized gambling was passed, we were told that money would lower property taxes. It sounded like a winning proposition, but my property taxes have not gone down. And, money being fungible, any increase in tax revenues allows our legislators to spend more on their pet constituencies and make promises that add to debt. There is no reason to believe tax revenue from the Westmoreland casino will be spent differently.

We are promised new, high-paying jobs. Let's hope so. But the casino, a major new entertainment option, will compete with the Palace and Lamp theaters, playhouses such as Stage Right and Apple Hill, movie theaters, restaurants and bars. All stand to lose business. The casino will undoubtedly have a variety of dining options that will compete with downtown Greensburg establishments and any restaurant within reasonable driving distance of the casino. Jobs will be lost when bars, theaters and restaurants that can't compete close.

The developer is considering building an entertainment district around the casino. As with malls that siphoned business away from downtown Greensburg and Latrobe, our downtowns may lose customers and relevance to the casino's “new downtown.”

The gamblers will be sure losers, except for an incredibly lucky handful. And with this casino nearby, how many county residents will become addicted to gambling?

The only sure bet is that our leaders will have more money to spend — and not necessarily to our direct benefit.

As the saying goes, “The house” — the state — “always wins.” Some Westmoreland businesses and residents will win; some will lose. But at least we'll have the freedom to do so conveniently.

Reed Pederson, a member of the Westmoreland Tribune-Review Editorial Board, is co-owner of MB Bride of Greensburg.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me