Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Many years ago, someone decided that what Philadelphia really needed, what would take the city from blah to BLING, was a casino.  And then, through a variety of questionable political machinations, the plan progressed and two groups got permission to build casinos on the Delaware Waterfront.  

Many people were not happy about this.  I was one of them.  I have been to Atlantic City, and folks, it is a miserable place.  Yes, you can get a rush if you like the feeling that you are adjacent to glamorous high-rollers, but unless you are a high-roller yourself, that's all you're going to be. Adjacent.  And yes, Atlantic City has shows and restaurants and even an outlet mall (hallelujah!) but walk one block from any of these fancy entertainments and you will find yourself in the middle of grinding poverty.  

I do not want Philadelphia to turn into Atlantic City.  I don't think Ben Franklin or George Washington would want that either.

Many protests later, the casinos finally agreed to consider alternate locations in the city, where at least they would not be next door to people's homes and schools and places of worship.  One idea was to put the casinos near the airport, which is a bit removed from the city itself.

Instead, our new mayor (for whom everyone had high hopes) and the casino people decided to place the casinos in the very heart of the city itself, sandwiched in between City Hall and Independence Hall, on top of the Gallery (a shopping mall) and one block south of Chinatown (my favorite part of the city).  

Right now, that area is a bit run-down.  There are no fancy restaurants or outdoor cafes, just dollar stores and an old Burlington Coat Factory.  Apparently, once we put a casino in, everyone on the street will be wearing gold stilettos and fur.  Or something.

Here's the thing, though.  No one is going to come to the Gallery (or as we used to call it in college, hell) for a fantastic fancy night of high stakes and higher wins.  For one thing, there are only going to be slots in the casino, no tables.  (I have a hard time writing about this because it makes me so angry, so please forgive the rambling and the clarity issues.)  I firmly believe that the people who are going to come play the slots in Center City are those who can't afford the trip to Atlantic City.  It will be people who do not have a lot of money who will lose it in this giant box full of slots.  The rich and fabulous will continue to head for Atlantic City, where there is already an infrastructure in place that makes them feel even more rich and more fabulous.

I don't want to sound like a crusader against vice here.  I know people who enjoy a night in a casino, and I don't want to sound like I am condemning them in any way.  I'm just mad at the politicoes and Donald Trump wannabes who are so eager to place this monstrosity just a few doors down from the birthplace of our nation.  That's all.

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