Sunshine and Thunderstorms

by Tiberius Gracchus on October 29, 2012

There has been enough interest by some within the Pierre and Ft. Pierre communities to proposition and debate the possibility of establishing casino type gambling in Ft. Pierre through state legislation. I ask, is it a blessing or a punishment for the residents of Ft. Pierre?

Our closest example of such a change is Deadwood. Deadwood became an amusement park regardless of the good intentions of many of the original supporters of the introduction of limited gambling there in 1980. Deadwood has become a town that accommodates tourists at the expense of a quality of life for residents. Did gambling save Deadwood from extinction? No, it only replaced the town with something else entirely.

Ft. Pierre will not allow just a few city lots to offer casino games. That would be unfair to reward a few people with skyrocketed property value and opportunity. Using Deadwood as a historical perspective would make me assume nearly all small business will flee to cheaper property outside Ft. Pierre city limits or into Pierre. You cannot have a high school next to a gambling district, so that is the end of the school district as we know it in Stanley County. Coincidentally this would serve well those who would have the Pierre and Ft. Pierre school districts consolidated. When a town allows casinos, the fluctuation in property values will make some property, especially rental properties, seem under utilized and cause homeowners much need to worry. Businesses will have a smaller job pool to pick from as a result of highly competitive wages offered by the new casinos. Locals will be squeezed out as non-residents with big money invest to remodel Ft. Pierre to solely accommodate gambling. The focus of local politics will be dramatically changed with the introduction of gambling. Historical preservation will take place, just as it has in Deadwood; however, it is not for the residents of Ft. Pierre. The landmarks of Ft. Pierre will be restored, exploited, and profited by someone a Ft. Pierre resident potentially has never met. As a rule, antiques should not hold more value than people.

All these statements I have made I stand behind, but none of what has happened in this scenario is un-American. In fact, the people of Ft. Pierre would have exercised their freedom to evolve how they wished. This is not an article against gambling. Gambling is part of the human condition that holds court in all sectors of society, and it remains a constant facet in our lives. Gambling is a cheap thrill that can be innocently enjoyed like a soda on a sunny day, although easily overdone and abused through the instant excitement it potentially offers. However, I offer this dissent on gambling in Ft. Pierre because I see it as the disintegration of a robust community.

The religious community in South Dakota would be quick to point out the immorality that springs from gambling. I am not going to offer statistics that one could easily find themselves so I am simply going to state that crime has risen disproportional in Deadwood since gambling was instituted there, and it is safe to say the same will occur in Ft. Pierre. I rely on common sense to say gambling increases crime, and therefore, diminishes its attractiveness to families looking for residence.

The question that one could ask him or herself is not if Ft. Pierre should allow casinos, it’s why Pierre has not discussed the same question? Pierre would keep the possible mess on the other side of the river while they remain on the proverbial moral high ground. By allowing traditional casino gaming in Ft. Pierre it will then remain captive to the gaming industry from then on as a result of the lucrative private and public revenues generated from it. Deadwood will never be separated from the gaming industry.

All the movements toward additional venues for gambling in South Dakota contribute to our downward slide towards dependence on gambling tax revenues and it will not serve a long term benefit or productive pursuit for our people that our state should be espousing. Each individuals judgement will always be varied as a result of their perception, however any communities goal to move towards additional vice certainly demands great scrutiny.

Until we live in a country that allows regulated and easily accessible gambling across the country, the destructive vacuum of allowing gaming into select communities only can be remarkable. Deadwood exemplifies what that vacuum can do, as evidenced by the original intention to limit the amount of gaming licenses that were issued. This disappeared quickly after adoption of gaming. Ft. Pierre is a proud frontier town that needs no such offense to their pioneer ancestors, for they built a town for a safe and prosperous future for their children.

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