Casino Of Dreams: If We Build It …

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - April 04, 2007
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Feeling chipper: Mads Mikkelsen in the film Casino Royale
Feeling chipper: Mads Mikkelsen in the film
Casino Royale

I’ve always suspected that phrase from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams - “build it and they will come” - was a subtle pitch for an Iowa gambling casino, not a baseball field.

Iowa got the message. Since that year, it has built 19 casinos and pari-mutuel facilities. The casinos are spread out in 15 cities. Iowa was the first state to legalize riverboat gambling in 1991. Current polls show 70 percent of Iowans content with legal gambling, albeit troubled about the effect on small business that can’t compete with casino shops.

I bring this up because I wonder how long our tourism goose will keep laying golden eggs if we don’t add gambling as an attractant for our nest. We’re sure not swimming in cash from that no-noise-on-top Convention Center we were sold for rooftop drinking-dancing.

Singapore is rapidly increasing resort-casinos to its mix of attractions. It already draws 9.7 million tourists a year (almost 3 million more than us) with revenue of $8.3 billion (we do about $10 billion). Macau has just passed Las Vegas as the world’s biggest gambling casino destination.

We’re asking Asians to pick Hawaii with no gambling and severe smoking restrictions. Meanwhile, they are being strongly lured by most every other place except Salt Lake City.

Our Legislature has twice put the kibosh on proposed dinner cruises with at-sea gambling that promised the state up to 96 percent of the profit in one case and guaranteed fees in the multi-millions in the other. Those two wager-at-sea proposals would have out-priced small-income local families most at risk for gambling addiction while bringing the state big revenue from tourists. Nope. No lottery, either. No pachinko parlors, not even forpay bingo.

We don’t mind our citizens’ well-known penchant for gambling. We just prefer to have them drop their money at Sam Boyd’s casinos in Vegas.

I write this as a guy who does not gamble, gets no money from the gambling industry and owns no gambling stocks. It’s just to get your brain cells considering how long we can keep our tourism economy hot by simply offering good weather, high hotel room prices, crowded roadways and Fendi shopping.

Asian tourists can get Fendi in Singapore, too, a theme park that rivals anything in Vegas - plus ubiquitous gambling.

Those places built it and, by golly, they are coming.


three star

We should all rally behind that City proposal to charge camping fees at our parks - even though I don’t believe for a minute the operative reason is to help defray maintenance costs.

I’m a veteran tent camper through the U.S. and Canada and I can’t think of a park I’ve been to that hasn’t charged a site fee. It used to be $12 and now is $23-$25 most places.

But let’s be honest about what’s not said about the fees. Most parks allow up to 14 days worth of camping permits, and there are people who live park-to-park. At $20 a day, that’s $600 a month and better than rent plus utilities and a damage fee.

At $25 a day, the money starts getting pretty serious. That deters the homeless and makes all of us rethink the length of our stays and creates better site turnover.

Whatever - I say the behind-doors thinking at City Hall was No. 1 homeless and No. 2 a maintenance “tax” source. I don’t get bull-puckied easily.

But - if you charge us, you must start giving us some security. Mainland parks have a manned check-in station, a roving ranger (the check-in person) and a car doesn’t get in without a windshield pass.

Drunks and pet-bringers are evicted and noted on a computer system. You get one warning. Next time, you’re 86’d from camping for that year. I’ve been able to set up our campsite and leave all our gear unattended. Theft is always outsiders, not other campers.

So, Mr. Mayor, although I know your real motive, I applaud the larger objective.

But if you are not going to provide any security, then I’ll continue to advise would-be campers to avoid this place like the danger zone it is.


three star

I am pleased by the academic ecumenism that has a member of the Japanese Studies Center helping pick the successor to Riley Wallace as UH basketball coach.

So I’m proposing to the UH president that the women’s volleyball coach be impanelled to help select the successor to Robert Huey as director of the Japanese Studies Center.

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