Thursday, May 10, 2012

Opinion: Casinos Are a Sure Bet for Jasper

Photo by Carlos Porto
By Deidre Walker

When you think of a casino, you usually think of all the glitz and glamour, lights and sounds in places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City.  Why does South Carolina have to be so far away from having the same thing?  It could be closer to home than you think.  With the economy in South Carolina being the way that it is, why wouldn't we want an opportunity to expand the job market by over 4,700 jobs?  Not only will having a casino in South Carolina expand the job market, but it will also help improve revenue for local businesses.

In Jasper County and in other parts of the Lowcountry, the people are finally going to be able to think about their futures, their children's and their grandchildren's futures due to the proposed casino/hotel in Hardeeville.  SB Investment of Myrtle Beach, a local investment company, and Stratford Land of Dallas, TX, have partnered with a Cherokee Native American tribe from Oklahoma, to build, according to Bronco Bostick at the Post and Courier, an “entertainment casino/hotel resort in the city of Hardeeville that will bring an estimated 3,800 jobs and $156 million in annual compensation.  That's 2,250 direct jobs on-site and 1,600 Lowcountry jobs that would be created as a result of economic activity the resort would generate.”  The resort will  have a 400 room  four-diamond hotel/casino, a championship golf course, a variety of restaurants, and a 1,500 seat multipurpose events center.  It has also been estimated that with the resort being built, it will also benefit the state by creating some 860 more jobs state-wide. 

But not everyone is excited about it. Some are concerned. Kelly Champlin of the Jasper County Sun reports that “Councilman Gary Mazzanna also put the point to question when he asked what kinds of jobs, what kinds of employment prospects, could be expected in the area in and around the resort for those unemployed in the Lowcountry and hungry for jobs.” In answer to this question, Ralph Teal a representative for SB Investments said, “...the jobs would range from local and state casino suppliers – people who sell anything from dishware and bed linens to attorneys who work with contracts for the resort – to employees that any resort would have, such as maids, groundskeepers, drivers, chefs, administrative assistants and bookkeepers.”  These are just the steady every day jobs having the casino built will create.  It will also have a beneficial impact on the construction trade and other types of trades in South Carolina. 

One of the  benefits that come with having the casino built in South Carolina is that the investors are not asking for any kind of state or local government incentives. Bostick says  “We were pleasantly surprised when they told us they are not seeking any state or local incentives.  That is unique since incentives are standard request for major economic development projects.  Incentives, which are usually tied to tax breaks, historically have been used to attract companies such as Boeing and BMW.  They often amount to tens of millions of dollars and are considered to be the price state and local government must pay to attract jobs.” Since the state and local government will not have to pay any of that, what this means for the local government is that it will “broaden the tax base without raising taxes.”

Another benefit of having a casino built in South Carolina is that local businesses all over the state and Lowcountry will reap the reward from an estimated 70 percent of out-of-state visitors spending their money on things like tourist attractions, gas, and other incidentals.  With benefits like this, why wouldn't anyone want to take advantage of this opportunity?  Bostick says that “an opportunity to improve the quality of life for our people on this scale is rare; it might not happen again in our lifetime.  It is an opportunity that must be seized for the benefit of an entire region that has been ignored for far too long.”

Even though it will be an excellent benefit for the economy and for South Carolina in general, there have been some concerns from local politicians and various business leaders around the area about bringing gambling to the state of South Carolina.  Some of their concerns about having the casino built have been raised about the types of unsavory businesses that can develop around casinos, such as, sexually oriented businesses and places selling alcohol.  Martin Grant reports in The Island Packet  that “Jasper County Administrator Andrew Fulghum said that the county has regulations in place that could mitigate the proliferation of establishments that sell alcohol or sexually oriented businesses around the casino.” 

The fact remains that gambling is already in our state with the South Carolina Education Lottery, the bingo parlors around the state, and Casino Boats that run on the Little River in Myrtle Beach.  Gambling has been a part of South Carolina for the better part of 10 years plus.  Having a casino built will not only supply Jasper County, but other areas in and around the Lowcountry with a large percentage of employment opportunities.  It will also help boost our local economy and decrease the unemployment percentage in South Carolina.  To say that it is a bad idea because of personal or religious reasons is not looking at both sides of the story and what would be in the best interest for the area for future generations. Grant reports that Councilman Gary Mazzanna stated that while he had, “personal reservations about gambling in general, because of his belief systems, he also didn't feel that he could, in good conscience, make a moral decision for anyone else.”   He also stated that, “while he didn't agree with gambling, there were a lot of people in the area who enjoyed it, and from the research that he had done, there was no downside and that there was nothing but a major up-side to the project in prospective growth and business in the area.” There have also been several community members that do not necessarily support gambling because of personal or religious reasons, but that they will support the casino/hotel for the jobs that it would bring to their area and surrounding areas within the Lowcountry. 


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