Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Feb 9 elections -- Pinnacle

Well Fat/Super Tuesday has come and gone, with Clinton pulling a slight lead (under very troubling circumstances), and McCain confirmed as the definitive front-runner on the Republican side. Of course, Louisiana didn't participate, being that Mardi Gras was falling on the same day, so we go to vote on Feb. 9th instead. On the ballot in East Baton Rouge Parish are the primaries (and some state party officials), but also the controversial proposal for a relocation of the Pinnacle Casino in Lake Charles. (A .doc file of the proposal as it will appear on the ballot is here.)

There is noise being made on both sides of the issue, but it's hard, from my perspective, to judge how much of this is backed by either Pinnacle or its competitors, and how much of it is actually citizens. I'm inclined to believe that citizens do make a large part of the opposition, though. Unsurprisingly, the companies are in an ugly fight. I look at the arguments and choose a side myself after the jump.

The arguments of Pinnacle and supporters the casino are that the casino will bring jobs, tax revenues, entertainers, and tourists, while (according to Pinnacle's promises, at least) putting its own money into the city infrastructure to offset potential traffic problems. (And of course, the people who frequent the casinos would like someplace nice and new.)

On the other hand, opponents of the casino argue that, from a moral standpoint, we don't need more gambling in this city, that the new casino will worsen traffic, that Pinnacle would be developing in the wrong place--on River Road south of downtown and LSU, presently a quiet and rural area, rather than in-filling in the downtown area somehow. (Besides extending the urban sprawl, this would destroy bird habitat, cycling area--of which there is certainly not much in BR--and a historic and scenic area.)

Personally, I'm only barely conflicted on this, primarily because of Pinnacle's economic arguments (jobs and tax revenue). But I do think that it's in the wrong area, and I am inclined to discourage gambling addiction, even being the social liberal/libertarian that I am. We need development but I believe it should be in-fill in areas that have essentially been abandoned, rather than more sprawl. Perhaps, as I've seen suggested elsewhere, Pinnacle should try to buy out one of the two boats--that's something I could get behind. But they refuse to develop downtown, an attitude that should, in my opinion, inspire mistrust--clearly they have little concern for community consensus or what else is going on here in terms of development and downtown revitalization.

There are several additional features (a golf course, a horse trail, etc.) that Pinnacle points to as beneficial for economic development. But they haven't made any commitments, and if they decide that the market isn't right, they'll just have a casino boat and leave it at that.

Finally, the coup de grace to Pinnacle's strongest arguments is that if they put one of the other two boats under through competition, the benefits of jobs and revenue will be basically a wash: we'll be back to two boats, except that one will have marred River Road in south BR (actually, outside the city limits), and there will be yet another husk of a development downtown.

On a more basic level, is gambling "growth"? The Advocate doesn't think so, and come to think of it, it hasn't done good by our state so far:

Gambling is not economic development. We have opposed the new proposal, not to disparage the applicant or to restrict competition in gambling, but because Louisiana has looked to gambling as a false idol, as a way to promote economic growth.

Other than in the regions of Lake Charles and Shreveport, where Texas gamblers do bring in new money, gambling is another way to cut up the local entertainment dollar.

Even the Baton Rouge Business Report (who I would expect to support Pinnacle wholeheartedly), despite JR Ball's editorial (same as linked above), seems ambivalent, which should really send up a red flag.


The said...

Hi DB,

My name's Ed and I look after the No New Casino campaign's website.

This is a really great summary of the issues. I'd like to quote some of it on our website, but I wanted to check with you first.

Please send me a quick email at Obviously, we'll link back to your site.


db said...

Thanks! Feel free to quote me; I would be honored, actually. No New Casino is now in my links sidebar. (I also sent you an email, by the way, so check that.)