Election Day 2014 has come and gone, and in the wake of November 4th, the Pennsylvania state gaming laws have been seriously questioned as to the impact they actually have on Bethlehem, PA and surrounding areas.
Most people are aware of the influx of regional development and cash flow that local casinos can bring in, and have brought in the past – when everything has been executed properly. In PA, casino companies have been banking on this track record to encourage voters to combat the Repeal the Casino Deal initiative set up by special interest groups. In fact, Repeal the Deal has been both adamant and steadfast in maintaining that casinos actually help ruin the financial economy of their host municipalities, despite evidence to the contrary.
What evidence is this? Well, for starters, one casino that started up in Bethlehem, PA, back in 2009 employs more than two thousand workers all by itself (and the casino isn’t even all that big by Mega Casino standards), plus the tens-of-thousands that visit each year to bring money to the local economy. Keep in mind that Bethlehem only has 74,000 residents. Even some of the things you might expect to come with the territory of so much money coming in, simply…haven’t.
“We’ve seen no major increase in robbery, prostitution, thefts, and those types of crimes. Many people said there would be increases, but we simply haven’t seen it,” said Bethlehem’s Chief of Police, Mark DiLuzio. In fact, the police chief told 22 News that they’ve actually seen a decrease in areas associated with the casino, because of the beefed-up security and ever-present cameras. Nor have there been any increase in the numbers of drunk drivers.
Perhaps most importantly, Bethlehem’s casino resides in the spot of the long-since defunct Bethlehem Steel producer, which folded almost a decade ago – and took hundreds of jobs with it. Even the mayor, Robert Donez, admits that the casino has done a great job in replacing the lost jobs and doing something with the otherwise barren land. According to research doe at Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies at nearby Lehigh University, the casino has stabilized the city’s economy. Nearby Allentown reports an influx of $4 million annually from the casino, and they’re ten miles away – Bethlehem itself reaps even more benefits.
Perhaps this and other reasons are why on November 22, voters voted to uphold the casino law that has put thousands of people to work, and promises much more. So far, it has restored an area that was overrun with the homeless and served as a meeting ground for criminal elements. The voters are hoping the first few years is just the beginning, and that property taxes continue to fall as they have been, and the casino catalyzes more financial benefits for the city.