August 2, 2004
You’ve seen the recent mailing from Catfish Bend Casino showing how much Tracy Vance, the Executive Director of the Ft. Madison Chamber of Commerce, loves the casino. You read how Ft. Madison has supposedly benefited from the casino.
“Do you want to know what happened when they brought a riverboat to this town?”
hear what Mr. Vance “forgot” to tell you...
Of 99 counties in Iowa, Lee County (Ft. Madison) has the # 1 HIGHEST unemployment rate in the State. No other county even came close to the percent unemployed in that county. This occurred in June, 2004 when the casino operated out of the Ft. Madison port. In just one month, Lee county went from 6.9% to 7.6% unemployment. Mr. Vance forgot to mention that “small” detail of 1,330 people in that county that requested unemployment assistance. Data compiled from the June 2004 Iowa Workforce Development monthly release of state unemployment figures.
Mr. Vance forgot to mention that in 2003 Lee County saw a 9% drop in sales tax revenue.
Mr. Vance forgot to mention that the County’s employees were forced to agree to a wage freeze to avoid layoffs. Those same employees were also forced to agree to paying for a greater share of their benefits.
The organizations competing for handouts from the Catfish Bend non-profit commission also saw a decrease of $125,000 in funding from the County this year. Last week their commission passed out $100,000 to 109 groups requesting $972,000. This left those organizations with a deficit this year of $25,000. Of those organizations requesting a handout from the commission, 67 went home empty-handed. Of those requesting assistance, an average of 90% of their requests were not granted. The voters of Washington County will hopefully realize that the returns to our county will be small.
Mr. Vance failed to mention that in the past year, property tax valuations dropped in Lee County while property taxes did not. That translates to lower home and business values with no decrease in county taxes. The decrease in valuation left Lee County with a sudden shortfall of $587,059.00.
Mr. Vance forgot about how the every city department is fighting huge budget cuts for FY 2004-2005. Even the Ft. Madison City Band lost it’s funding and is struggling to find private sponsorship to provide family entertainment. The popular Sunday-evening famliy concerts unfortunately lose out.
On Dec. 31, 2003 the voters in Lee County passed a referendum increasing the hotel/motel tax by 40% (5% to 7% taxation). For those tourism dollars spent in that county, an additional 2% will be taxed to promote their struggling tourism industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency has taken fire at Ft. Madison for dumping raw sewage from their downtown directly into the Mississippi River every time it rains. The Fort Madison Daily Democrat reported on June 16, 2004 that downtown businesses are tired of dealing with flooded sewers at their businesses. At the Riverfrom Business District meeting, businesses and community leaders complained both about the problems caused by the backed-up sewers, and the delays with business development that a lack of renovation ensues. The EPA has forced the city to spend $800,000 to monitor the raw sewage being released from the downtown into the river and is forcing the city to “take out anything that floats or is solid,” according to the wastewater superintendant. With 1,300 daily visitors gorging themselves on an all-you-can-eat buffet at Catfish Bend Casino, we can’t help but wonder how those visitors are contributing to that problem.
Mr. Vance boldly stated, “Local Business Boomed When the Riverboat Came to Our Town.” Unfortunately the unemployment data can’t back this up. It appears that the only local business boom came in the form of plumbers and sewage treatment sorters and skimmers.
Mr. Vance says in his letter that the 4% interest loan used to attract new businesses to Ft. Madison is pleasantly low. We wonder why he doesn’t consider Catfish Bend’s community donations “low”, since they are even lower than 4%? The casino there doesn’t even give back to the community the interest earned from the huge amounts of money taken out of the county.
Mr. Vance mentioned 5 new small businesses in Ft. Madison. How many businesses have failed in that same time period? Did he forget to mention that 124 employees at Sheaffer Pen in downtown Ft. Madison are facing layoffs? How will that affect their growing unemployment rate?
Now we realize that Mr. Vance may be a wonderful person and is attempting to make Ft. Madison a better place to live and work. But when he issues a blanket of support for a casino in Washington County, we just had to point out the deficiencies in his statements. The lesson learned here is that we would not be happy to trade our Washington County economy for one like that with a riverboat.
We would now move on to the statements provided by the Washington County Citizens for Good Jobs. They quoted a 1999 US Dept. of Treasury report that bankruptcy rates won’t increase due to the casino. Common logic should overrule here about the effect of $70,000,000.00 being lost gambling. Can they really hope that there won’t be an increase in backruptcy? They mentioned that consumer credit card debt is a greater cause of bankruptcy. Once again they forgot that gambling causes greater credit card debt.
To explore this issue further, one should look at the recent study (March, 2004) done at Creighton University about problem gamblers. According to their study,
"Individuals, who are the primary filers in Chapters 7 and 13 (bankruptcies), would be particularly susceptible to the impact of problem gambling on their personal financial condition," according to the study done by Edward Morse, an associate professor of law, and Ernie Goss, an economics professor.
The study found that counties with casinos had, on average, individual bankruptcy rates more than 100 percent higher than noncasino counties.
Thanks but no thanks to Ft. Madison and it’s Chamber director Tracy Vance. We would never want our county to share the same problems you and your casino have. Ft. Madison and Lee County are the perfect examples of why we SHOULD NOT allow large-scale gambling in Washington County.
Brad Franzwa, Organization Chair of CARE (Communities Against Riverboat Expansion)
PO Box 602
Riverside, IA 52327
Ph. 319-648-2095Email: email@example.com