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Butte, Montana

Pros and Cons of Open Gambling
Part 2: Cold Hard Cash

By Leslie McCartney of The Montana Standard

March 2, 2003

Gambling on a new future?
Will gambling in Butte bring about the proposed Destination: Montana! idea of high-altitude sports centers, golf courses and music hall shows along with casinos? Only time will tell, but it's wise to take  note of what other towns learned of the changes that can come with gambling revenues.

It is hard to ignore the tantalizing prospect of cash in a cash-strapped state.

Under the proposal shopped to Butte last week, $159 million in gambling tax would be collected annually, 3 percent of that would go to the state and .5 percent would be dolled out locally. In addition, tax revenues from entertainment tickets and room taxes would yield a small fortune.

Consider a few numbers from other communities:

In Tunica, Miss., residents pay no property tax due to the success of gambling.

Last year, statewide adjusted gross proceeds for Colorado casinos -- the third Colorado town allowing gambling is Cripple Creek -- was $719.7 million, a 6.4 percent increase from the year before. That came despite a recession. Also, the state's Historical Fund, which is fed largely by gambling dollars, is the healthiest around with millions of dollars earmarked for historic preservation.

Without gambling, Deadwood would not have new water lines, re-bricked roads, and a revitalized and spruced-up downtown.

"Deadwood was dying," Vogt pointed out. "Something was needed to be done to infuse the economy and city of Deadwood."

Gambling especially finds fertile ground in struggling communities, and Butte's response to Barrett Singer and Robert Tormey's proposal to fill the Uptown with musical venues, wide-open gambling and recreational facilities has been overwhelmingly positive.

Naomi Greer of the American Gaming Association of Washington, D.C., said that a federal commission's research found gambling has been most successful in economically depressed areas. "It's really rejuvenated these communities," Greer said.

She pointed out that besides the obvious benefits, there are others as well such as people finding work who were either previously unemployed or underemployed. Earning a living allows them spend their dollars locally and helps local businesses, she said.

It also thinks the ranks of welfare-dependent people lessens when jobs are readily available and increases other coffers, such as charitable causes, she added.

>> part 3 :: A Tale of Three Cities ::

<< part 1 :: Pros and Cons of Open Gambling in Butte :: 

Copyright Leslie McCartney and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.

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