Talk with any Philadelphian these days and you’re bound to become involved in a discussion on the new casinos that will soon be part of the city’s landscape.
Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilman Frank DiCicco and the casino companies Foxwoods and SugarHouse have agreed to open casinos and slot machines in two key locations in Philadelphia, and many Philadelphians are NOT happy.
Foxwoods originally planned to build casinos along the Delaware River on Columbus Boulevard, but that project has been relocated to Center City at the Gallery at Market East and now, only recently, to the old Strawbridge & Clothier store at 801 Market Street.
SugarHouse, however, plans to stay on the waterfront property at Shackamaxon Street and will break ground in August on their interim casino and parking lot.
Backlash from residents has been strong, and in a PEW research study, 59% of Philadelphians surveyed disapproved of building in the proposed Center City locations for Foxwoods.
The mayor has promised that the plan will help revitalize the city’s economy and encourage tourism, claiming the public will grow accustomed to the idea after construction has begun. But members of the community have banded together to voice their concern.
Spearheading efforts to cancel plans for the casinos is Casino Free Philadelphia, a citizen-based campaign seeking to educate the public about the negative effects of casinos.
Jethro Heiko, founder of Casino Free Philadelphia believes the casinos will ruin Philadelphia’s reputation and encourage addictive gambling habits. To combat these long term effects, Heiko and his organization have tried to alert area residents to these dangers while actively speaking out against Foxwoods’ plans.
Heiko believes area college students in particular should become involved in Casino Free Philadelphia since they too are likely to be affected by the casinos in the near future.
“Tens of thousands of college students will have significant access to these casinos, and some percentage of students can become addicted,” says Heiko. “It will have a significant impact on the colleges and universities and Philly. There is the potential that students’ careers can be affected by gambling. The costs are tremendous.”
Casino Free Philadelphia’s upcoming event, “Beat the House,” is especially welcoming to young people who wish to become involved.
On June 6, the group and other community organizations plan to gather at a yet to be chosen slots parlor outside of Philadelphia and rally against the casino industry and their presence in Philadelphia. Heiko says this will help “people take action, rather than just talking about it.”
Heiko believes “Beat the House” will change the perception that youth aren’t socially active. “This movement is changing the image of people who oppose casinos and disproving the stereotype that young people don’t care about these types of issues,” says Heiko. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from students.”
But Heiko and his group have recently scored somewhat of a win. Last weekend, Foxwoods Casino asked state regulators for a two year extension on their plans to get a slots parlor open in Philadelphia.
People interested in participating in “Beat the House” are required to attend one of two training sessions on either May 28 or June 3 to gain more information about the cause.
Although the venue has not been decided, detailed information on the event is available at beatthehouse.org.
To learn more about the fight against casinos in Philadelphia, visit casinofreephila.orgor call 267-984-3493.
You can contact Aarthi Manohar at firstname.lastname@example.org