The Sands Resort Casino on the old Bethlehem Steel property has served as an economic engine for the area and it hasn’t created the legions of drug addicts, hordes of prostitutes or financial ruin of residents that some worried it would. It is considered a successful exception in a landscape of American cities that didn’t properly plan ahead of approving such a dramatic change to their community. Which brings up a parallel between another economically struggling city in Fall River, Massachusetts, who is looking to partner with Foxwoods, the Connecticut-based tribal gambling empire.
- Both Blue Collar America Cities
- Both had amazing blue collar industries through the late 1800’s through most of the 1900’s – Bethlehem became a center of heavy industry and trade, once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, and Fall River following similar growth in the textile industry.
- Both saw factories close and businesses move away in the late 1900’s – Bethlehem Steel ceased operations in 1995 due to overseas competition and declining demand, and Fall River lost much of it’s textile industry to a cheaper work force in the south.
- Both became areas of high unemployment like many northeast mill towns with withering industries and/or industries moving out.
So Bethlehem reached out to the gambling industry when casino expansion started in Pennsylvania in 2004. The process Bethlehem took to be informed on planning was very thorough and should be a blueprint for other communities looking for the quick financial fix without the expected negatives that casinos supposedly bring. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan & neighboring Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski both consider the Sands casino proceeds helpful when budgeting the city’s cash flow, but he stopped short of calling the casino an economic miracle for the region. “It does generate revenue, is a good employer and doesn’t generate the crime people think it will, but a casino can only be a part of a solution. It’s not a magic bullet,” Pawlowski said. “All of the money we get from the casino goes into the general fund and does help us fund other projects.” Tomorrow, we look into the Foxwoods proposal more in depth. That’s all for now Binbin