2014-10-30 / Opinion

Anti-Gambling Trifecta

To the Editor:

I don't normally delve into politics in a public setting but feel compelled to now.

I am a proponent of jobs, economic growth, and the promotion of Newport as a world-renowned travel destination. I fully support the development of a strong economic base with a sustainable platform for perpetual growth and job creation.

However, I am not in favor of the proposed expansion of gambling and I have three reasons:

1. As a business owner, I have worked in a retail environment at Mohegan Sun, where the sole purpose of all activity is to keep people in the building. The use of perks, rewards, events, and promotions are geared towards having the longest time possible to take your money. This has a substantial negative impact on local businesses. I have seen the effect first hand with closures and layoffs in the surrounding community.

A boutique casino in Newport will operate with the sole purpose of capturing the time and money of all who enter. There will be no residual positive impact to nearby retail and restaurant businesses. There will be no flow of new traffic into downtown. I fear for my business and those of my peers.

2. As a taxpayer, I have read accounts from New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and elsewhere that point to an industry in decline. I offer as an example the planned expansion for Mohegan Sun, with additional casino pits, retail, and restaurants. The plan has been on hold since 2008. Every couple of years they talk about jumpstarting the project, but they simply don't have a need for it. When things turn here, there will be no relief for property taxes and homeowners will end up funding the deficit. For our local and state government to be so tragically myopic is unacceptable.

The jobs carrot being dangled is misleading. For every job created at the casino, a job will be sacrificed downtown. It is impossible to guarantee jobs are preserved for Newport residents. Much like professional bar and wait staff, there are professional dealers that will have experience and tenure competing for these jobs after ongoing layoffs in Connecticut. People need jobs today, not years from now when the project might be ready.

3. As a voter, I simply don't believe this is the best deal for Newport. I don't believe the developers, or their promises. I don't believe the politicians that say there won't be further expansion. But mostly, I don't believe it fits here. I grew up in Newport and have lived on Aquidneck Island my entire life. I voted against the expansion of casinos before and I will vote NO again on Questions 1 and 2.

Jake Cathers

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