Editorial: Are Casinos Part Of The Public Trust?
VT superfriend and holder of the VPP/VIMFP perfect attendance record (MIA at VT10) Mr. JeffInOKC (aka FFejniOKC) joins us today with thought provoking theories about the public trust, take it away FFej! -c
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It might seem odd, since I live in Oklahoma City and see every day the benefit of the Thunder moving to our city, but one of my favorite documentaries of the last few years is Sonicsgate: Requiem For A Team. It's the lament of a jilted lover and quite one sided, but it does have some good concepts and is entertaining.
One of the key talking points they keep hitting on is Seattle SuperSonics team owner (at the time) Howard Schultz repeatedly referring to the team as a "part of the public trust". The concept that a team, or other entity, could be vital to the city's identity and image. Something that, by just existing, immediately reflects upon the city and drives thought their way. Because of it's civic importance it becomes the obligation of both the individual owners (if it's a private enterprise) and the local populace and government to protect, promote and improve it.
Schultz knew when he bought the Sonics that they were a money loser in it's current arena and the only solution was to replace it. Seattlites had already paid for new stadiums for the NFL and MLB teams and decided they didn't want to do it again. Schultz thought that, as a civic leader, he could get the deal sold just by his charm and genius. Instead, the locals became so angered by his approach, and he by their attitude, that he sold the team to people from OKC (whom he had to suspect were going to move the team) and SuperSonics jetted. The net result for Seattle is that they lost their entrant in the second most popular sports league in America, which was also the team that got Seattle recognition as a "big league city" in the eyes of the country over 35 years ago. They will now have to wait over 10 years and spend more than what was originally requested to get another team. This happens every time a sports franchise moves.
How does this relate to casinos in Las Vegas?
My direct argument is that the casinos on the Fremont Street Experience are an iconic part of the image of Las Vegas, in an historic district, which is also a geographically limited area. They should be seen as a part of the community fabric and jointly protected as a part of "the public trust".
I was told that, after the sale of the Las Vegas Club to Derek Stevens fell through, the owners of the property (Tamares Group) are negotiating to lease it to a drug store chain, such as Walgreens or CVS. I see this as a death blow to the property. The lease would have to be for at least 10 years and the ground floor square footage used would destroy any ability by new or existing property owners to maximize the normal casino and entertainment uses. The hotel towers would remain closed for decades, as it would be impossible or too disruptive to demolish them. The rest of the property would become a ghost town. A festering filth pit.
I maintain that this action would do irreversible damage to the Fremont Street Experience, and, by extension, the City of Las Vegas. I believe that the City, Fremont area property owners & operators, and the general public at large should band together and stop this proposal. I think they should work jointly to ensure that the area is protected from opportunistic speculation and short term profit grabs, and instead is provided a clear vision and demand that this limited space be protected for the common good and long term preservation of it's heritage and revenue potential.
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