Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rendell Says CasiNO More

His days numbered, the Pennsylvania Governor who championed slot machines across the state is saying "no more". Could Rendell be trying to leave office looking like a good intentioned family man? With no political obligations, is he showing his true colors, or perhaps just bored?

The political way of getting things done in the United States seems to be to stuff a bunch of jargon into a bill, hope nobody reads it, and birth a mediocre version of what you were trying to accomplish. The problem with gaming in Philadelphia is nothing more than a microcosm of that problem, and the problem with gaming across the state.

Both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia take a Soviet approach when it comes to development. Introduce a vice into the mix and you can bet that the state and city will regulate it with an iron fist. Nearly a century after prohibition the state is filled with dry towns and limited access to alcohol. There is no way the state would allow gambling without complete, inhibitory control.

What we ended up with was the product of this control: a state filled with crappy slot barns tainting quaint towns across our landscape. Instead of concentrating the gaming licenses in towns and cities that could have benefited from a destination attraction - let's say Chester - the state required these parlors to be spaced out, guaranteeing absolutely no competition. Without competition, these slot barns will never be anything more than what they are today. In fact they'll decay, and in an absence of competition, find only room for minimal maintenance.

The same thing happened in the city. Requiring the two casinos to be spread apart instead of locating them in a concentrated entertainment district insured the status quo. And now, with the rejection of a second casino, Sugarhouse can rest easily knowing that they will never have to grow, never need to improve, never need to provide better transportation or accommodations, because they're the only game in town.

Poor city planning confounded an already bad move on the part of the state. As City Council and NIMBYs bickered over locations, the casinos were free to move forward with shoddy renderings and absent community interaction. Instead of arguing over the inevitable, the city could have been charging the casinos with improvements to the surrounding areas.

Both casinos could have been charged with the task of providing Delaware Avenue with a light rail or trolley, connecting the two venues and forcing them to compete, while solving a transportation problem that the city is currently investigating on its own. Not to mention what kind of development may have been kindled along Delaware Avenue if transportation was eased between two popular entertainment complexes.

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