The Second Battle of Gettysburg roars on. The issue: Shall there be a casino within a mile of the great battlefield where many thousands died in a titanic struggle over America's future? The casino forces seem implacable, aided by citizens who believe the casino is necessary for jobs and economic development.
Well, I live on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a city with a rich history and a new casino. And I am saying, Don''t expect a casino, if you get one, to solve all your economic and employment problems. Or even any of them.
There is a simple reason for this. There are casinos everywhere, in cities which thought they would be an answer to job and economic development challenges. I haven't done deep research on this, but even huge, glitzy establishments designed to separate people from their money don't always do well in a bad economy and with a lot of competition. Why should people who are determined to gamble away money go to your city to do it when they can go to the casino next door--or, for that matter, to the coming video poker games in their friendly local bar or restaurant?
The last I heard--correct me if I'm wrong--even old-line gambling sites like Atlantic City and Las Vegas are in trouble because of new competition and the poor state of the economy. According to local news stories, the head of the Sands Casino here has admitted that, if he had it to do over again, he would not build in Bethlehem.
One more thing. If you get the casino some of you wish for, you will feel different about your town. Trust me on this. Some of you might feel proud and empowered, at least at first. More of you, I believe, will feel diminished. Especially when you will be trading being a unique American shrine for being just another roadside emporium.
Think it over. And good luck.