Under a proposed casino initiative measure before the D.C. Council today [Metro, June 3], the District stands to gain 25 percent of an estimated $765 million in profit that a gambling facility could generate. But a Ward 5 casino-entertainment center would have many other costs.
A major road or bridge probably would be needed to reroute traffic and facilitate access to such a complex. Also, the city's tax base might erode as the casino spurs an exodus from the neighborhood.
Many questions surround this project. For example, what provisions would be mandated to train and hire area residents, many of whom are ex-offenders? How many and what type of regulatory and security staff would be on site during the casino's hours of operation?
How would the city justify granting a monopoly gambling license to a non-utility? What type of alcohol and tobacco licenses would be sought in a city that consistently has the nation's highest alcohol- and tobacco-related mortality rates? And what would the policies be on credit extensions and daily gambling limits? Many daytime patrons probably would be among the unemployed. Casinos also attract disproportionate numbers of low-wage earners and senior citizens.
In Wisconsin a proposed casino was presented as a sure bet, but a planning commission study found that it could have a negative $100 million effect on that area's economy. When that was disclosed, the measure failed.
The proposal for a casino in the District has many unanswered questions. The D.C. Council should examine this matter carefully, not rush to judgment.
ALPHA ESTES BROWN
The writer is a pastor in the vicinity of the proposed casino.