To the Editor:
Many folks are talking about the casino idea and at first glance, it looks like a warmly lit Christmas tree abundant with gifts on a barren winter evening. After all Washington has gone through, just about anything looks good. Yet, if we look a little closer, we may find that the foretold presents of economic growth are really not there.
Let's look at a few facts. Has anyone been to Dubuque, Burlington, or Davenport lately? Have you seen the downtown areas? Well, with casinos and malls nearby, their downtown areas struggle to attract business. Many small businesses continue to close and storefronts are empty. Even the malls have seen diminished consumer spending as good jobs are replaced by low paying jobs.
If Riverside gets its casino, you have to ask yourself this: Who can afford to raise a family or own a home with the jobs it would create? Who in the world is going to drive another 20 miles south day or night to go to a restaurant or support a business on our square? Who is going to come to Washington to buy an appliance or a car? The communities that have casinos find that people go to the casinos and the casinos only. They spend their money there and there only. For the wealthy, it may be fun. For those with limited income and no sense to stop, one can find themselves in a world of trouble if the gambling bug bites.
Furthermore, I believe more Washington residents will forgo buying their goods in Washington as a night's casino lodging only gets them in closer striking distance of Saturday shopping in Iowa City or Coralville. Along with increased taxes to support so many proposed projects, increased public safety infrastructure, the additional financial burden will hurt residents and businesses in our city.
As I considered this issue, and the work of Ed Raber, the current WEDG director who came to us from economically stressed Dubuque, home of a casino, I would think that he would have known better than to support an idea that has no merit other than increasing tax burdens and allowing local businesses to be at further risk.
I believe this community can do better. We are a patient people. Some of us are further tempered having lived through worse economic times than these. In time, the economy will heal and if we roll up our sleeves and work aggressively, particularly the WEDG director, I am sure we can do better than a casino idea that promises nothing more than empty wallets, broken dreams, and enhanced tax burden to pay for all the rest that comes with it.
With a wish to pursue opportunities that are better suited to our community's core values, I have no wish to throw the dice at this time for a casino, which in my view, is a losing bet.