Friday, August 28, 2009

Betting on a Downtown Resurgence

At least two plans have been proposed for a casino hotel adjacent to the upcoming Medical Mart. We've got Jeff Jacobs and Dan Gilbert tossing their names and influence into the ring. The way the story is being played out, we've only got one thing to do: Choose which of the two casino hotel plans we like better.

There is another option, of course: Decide that you don't want a casino hotel downtown at all.

If you select the latter option, you may be confronted with puzzled looks, as some might question, "Don't you want downtown to thrive?" Well naturally we all do, and it's high time that something new and exciting headed downtown. When the Medical Mart is built, there will be a great need for more hotels, restaurants and attractions.

But do we really need a casino to boost our popularity and viability? Will Cleveland actually make money with a casino? It's not necessarily a safe bet.

According to an August, 17, 2009 post on, Las Vegas and Atlantic City have seen their revenues drop during the last few months. Detroit's Greektown Casino-Hotel is bankrupt. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that 2008 revenues were down for two-thirds of the states that have legalized gambling.

Here's another potential problem with building a casino hotel next to the Medical Mart: It may discourage visitors from discovering the wonders of the city.

We all know that not enough attention is given nationally to the historic and cultural treasures around Cleveland. And if visitors are too busy stuffing quarters into a slot machine or betting on a game of poker, they're not going to find out about them. Think of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, The Rock Hall, The Great Lakes Science Center. What about Little Italy, Tremont, Ohio City? How about that lake that doesn't get enough use? Don't we want to flaunt what we've already got?

Perhaps this is naive. Not everyone who comes to Cleveland--and possibly no one who comes in the dead of January--is going to want to traverse the city looking for things to do. There certainly could be a chunk of people who would rather spend a few hours in a casino than getting blown up East Ninth Street trying to get to The Rock Hall. But isn't it possible to build something besides a casino next to the Medical Mart to will attract visitors and get them to send positive reports back to their home towns/countries?

A casino hotel may very well be on its way to Downtown Cleveland. In that case, the Medical Mart may want to consider a special wing for products and services that help gamblers break their habit.