Manassas Park Doing Fine
Without Betting Parlor
In 1996, Manassas Park voters rejected an off-track betting parlor. Now, Colonial Downs has returned to try again. Here are my concerns:
Gambling is not a family-friendly business. According to the final report of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, indebtedness, crime, forgery, credit card theft, domestic violence, child neglect, alcoholism, bankruptcy, divorce and homelessness are more prevalent in areas where gambling is legal.
Manassas Park is a great place to live and raise a family, but my wife and I would not have bought a home in Manassas Park to raise our children if we knew it was going to become the gambling center of Northern Virginia.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors and Manassas City Council unanimously approved resolutions opposing the gambling parlor. The Prince William resolution states, "Gambling promotes behaviors that are detrimental to the family unit, including . . . problem and pathological gambling, which often results in bankruptcy, suicide, divorce or abuse."
If approved by voters, the gambling facility in Manassas Park would be a regional operation. Our vote will affect neighbors, friends and families throughout Northern Virginia. Our neighbors have a right to express their concern. There is a double standard at work when local officials and neighbors who oppose off-track betting are scolded for voicing concern but politicians from the faraway Tidewater area who advocate gambling in Manassas Park are welcomed.
Manassas Park has been blessed again and again since we rejected off-track-betting in 1996. The city has received enough revenue to build a new, first-class high school; the new Cougar Elementary School; more than $18 million for the middle school; a new firehouse; new fire engines; new police cars; improvements to roads, sidewalks, water and sewer; a plan for a new Park Center; and even a tax rate cut -- all without one dollar of gambling money.
There is no compelling reason to sacrifice future blessings and community goodwill for a fast buck gotten at the expense of our family, friends, neighbors and existing local businesses.
Personal Experience Shows
Parlors Do Not Invite Crime
Halloween was celebrated early at Costello Park -- Tuesday. The Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance warned us that the boogeyman, Elvira and the Grim Reaper will soon visit Manassas Park if Colonial Downs is successful in its proposal allow an off-track betting facility.
Crime? I have visited nearly all of Colonial Downs' OTB sites. They are clean operations, and I recall that the Richmond chief of police has stated that crime is nonexistent at the Broad Street facility.
Prostitution? I have never seen such activity at any racetrack or OTB site. But I must admit, like other horseplayers, my face is buried in the racing form.
Has anyone in the Family Alliance ever been inside an OTB?
Suicide? Bankruptcy? I understand that 4 percent of all of us have self-destructive habits, whether it be excesses in gambling, alcohol or drugs. It is tragic, but do you make laws to protect the 4 percent from themselves at the expense of the personal freedom of 96 percent of the population? Not in a democracy, you don't.
The ultra-conservative wing of my political party has become anti-business. They have become focused on social issues at the expense of our critical transportation and educational needs. Twenty-two years ago, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) campaigned for term limits. If anti-gambling has replaced this priority, perhaps he should revisit "Plan A," lead by example and limit his own term.
In the 14 years I have operated in Manassas Park, I have witnessed that the residents and government of this fine city are fiercely proud and independent. When Manassas Park became a city, no one thought it could survive with two blocks of commercial zoning and only blue-collar residents to support its tax base.
Today, there are more than 500 businesses, a fantastic school system and a proactive and responsible government.
I'm betting Manassas Park will continue to be a winner, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.