Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The enemy of my enemy is my friend: casino edition (a/k/a "mutally assured destruction")

So Maryland is all worked up about casinos, given National Harbor's successful foray through the special legislative session so that Maryland voters will get to vote on whether or not a sixth casino, in Prince George's County, can be added to the five already approved.

Maryland Live! Casino
The new Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills on opening night in Hanover.  Mark Gail / The Washington Post.

Cordish Companies, a national entertainment complex developer, played hardball and outplayed the owners of the Laurel Race Track--remember support for the horse racing industry was the ostensible original reason for allowing casinos to begin with, along with the fact that neighboring states have casinos and were attracting Maryland residents--for the casino license for Anne Arundel County, and so Maryland Live! has opened next to the Anne Arundel Mills lifestyle shopping center.

Harrah will be opening a casino in Baltimore City, and various middling casino operations, including one owned by Penn National, a big regional gaming-horse racing company, in Perryville, in Cecil County near the border with Delaware.

Cordish is concerned that a casino at National Harbor will draw off customers from their facility in Anne Arundel County.  So far, their gaming establishment generates the most revenue of the open casinos in Maryland, although revenues are expected to drop once a casino opens in Baltimore.  See "Maryland Live! rakes in $35 million in July, but revenue drops at Perryville casino" from the Washington Post.

In PG County, Penn National bought Rosecroft Raceway with the idea of getting a casino license.  National Harbor has joined in with MGM Casinos, to bid for a casino there.

The Post reports in "Penn National Gaming could buy stake in Maryland Live! casino at Arundel Mills," that Penn National and Cordish may join forces, with the idea of Penn National getting a license at Rosecroft and beating out National Harbor.  I could see Cordish developing some type of Live! facility there (I've seen the one in Louisville, they have one in Baltimore, and a big project in Kansas City, among others) as another inducement to their bid.

Mutually assured destruction
The quest for gambling and the actions of the various parties (Cordish, Peterson Companies, Penn National, etc.) reminds me of the nuclear war deterrence theories from the 1950s and 1960s, especially "mutually assured destruction" or MAD, where each side had enough weapons to successfully destroy the other so that there would be no winners, hence it wasn't worth attacking.  Also see "States Up the Ante in Bid to Lure Other States’ Bettors" from the New York Times.

With West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland all having casino type operations, I don't think there are any ultimate winners as overall revenues are likely to be equal to the costs of enticing and managing gambling, plus paying for the various social costs.

NYC has just added a casino in Queens ("At Resorts World Casino, a Wave of Maimed" from the New York Times) and of course there is Atlantic City in New Jersey, which has plenty of negative issues.  See the chapter "Economic Impacts of Gambling" from the report Gambling in California.  Atlantic City was intended to be Las Vegas East, but it's never successfully pulled it off, and many of the projected improvements to the community have never resulted.

DC legislators look to get DC into the gambling game too
Meanwhile, in the WTF? department, Councilmembers Barry and Evans in DC are putting forth legislation to study the impact of all these facilities in neighboring jurisdictions on DC, probably with an eye of getting DC into the game as well.  Besides the fact that Congress would have to approve of gaming facilities in DC, I think it's better to just stay away from it.  It sure hasn't worked out for Atlantic City...

-- proposed Bill to create a Citizens Commission to study Gambling
-- "Feeling Lucky? Barry Wants D.C. to Study Legalizing Gambling," from DCist

I imagine Cordish Companies and Penn National would be very interested in participating in such a venture in DC.

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