The Casino Gamble

Ch-Ching!

That’s the sound I hear every time I drive down I-79 and pass the Meadows Lands in Washington County. The sound of money being plopped into slots machines and subsequently into the coffers of the county. The temporary slots casino at the Meadows has been a major hit by all accounts while the construction continues in earnest next door.

I mention this relatively normal business development because of what is happening just up the road in Pittsburgh. While Washington County’s casino plan has gone off without a hitch, Pittsburgh is still plodding along. Actually, the project has come to a standstill thanks to a financing fiasco that forced license-holder Don Barden to bring in more financial muscle to try and get the project jump-started.

Now the new money man, multi-millionaire Neil Bluhm, says the project is on shaky ground unless his new financing plan is approved. There’s also been talk about putting the license up for re-bid. Already the project is delayed by at least a month and given what’s happened recently, the project could be backed up even longer … perhaps into the next decade. I haven’t even mentioned the other projects which are hitched to the casino’s success: the Pens new arena and the redevelopment of the Hill district.

This has been an absolute mess. What should be making millions for the county already has yet to yield dollar one. NOw, it could be put on hold indefinitely. I don’t have any answers because this is not my area of expertise. I’m just frustrated like every other county resident should be that this possible financial boom for the area has so far been a bust …. and could blow up in the coming days unless the gaming board and local leaders get this project back on track.

Right now, Pittsburgh’s gamble on slots has been just that: a gamble that has yielded a partially-built parking garage and little else. Amazing, when you drive down I-79 and go by the Meadows where the same license has yielded a jackpot for residents, taxpayers and new business in Washington county. You can just hear how different the two projects are when you pass by the Meadows exit.

Quiet. Listen.

Ch-Ching.

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