Local Pictures
Classified Ads
 Announce Births
Email Us
Buy A Copy
Local Links

click here to
The Daily

web page consultants:
Servant Technologies


02-01-03: Gambling and more Botkins officials release details of development project
The Daily Standard

    BOTKINS - More than 250 residents at a community meeting Friday evening learned Botkins village officials are considering moving forward with an economic development project anchored around gambling.
     The project could create more than 4,000 jobs on-site and as many as 16,000 in the region. But a political science professor warned residents that they must weight the potential riches that come with a casino against the possible drawbacks. The information was part of a public meeting hosted by a local businessman who supports the proposal.
    Before giving developers the go-ahead, village officials want the community's support. It is up to residents to weigh the benefits of such a development against the problems that could potentially arise from a gaming establishment or any other large-scale development, residents were told.
    Those in attendance at Friday's meeting seemed to strongly support the proposal based on the applause that at times became raucous. But an opponent of the project also drew applause with his comments.
    The entire development, which as proposed, would include seven phases over a 10-year period' It involves far more than gambling. Restaurants, hotels, meeting and banquet facilities, retail shops, day therapeutic spas, a mini-mall, large-venue concert hall, golf course, and all-weather, indoor water park also are part of the plans discussed
    No cost estimates for the total investment were given in the detailed written plan distributed to everybody at the meeting by village officials.
   T he project would create 600 jobs initially and more than 4,000 upon completion, officials who spoke Friday said. That number does not include temporary construction jobs and jobs created outside the initial investment. Overall, spokesmen estimated the development could lead to more than 16,000 jobs within a 50-mile radius of the site. Celina is about half that distance from Botkins.
    The residents learned the development is being pursued by California-based NCI and an unnamed Native American tribe.
    Botkins is a village of about 1,200 that lies just inside Shelby County south of Wapakoneta. Ohio 219 meets Interstate 75 on the east edge of town.
    Friday's meeting was Botkins' officials first release of any details about the project in the community since it was first publicized by The Daily Standard in November. In a December public meeting, village officials admitted some low level of gaming could be part of a development they were pursuing but withheld other details.
    Ed Schnippel, a Botkins businessman who hosted the meeting on behalf of the village, said the project has come to a "crossroads."
    "Commitments need to be finalized and considerable dollars expended," Schnippel said.
    NCI and the Indian tribe teamed up a couple of years ago and first contacted village officials in May 2002, Schnippel said. If the project moves forward, Botkins would become home to the first Native American gaming establishment in Ohio.
    The gambling would be limited to bingo, Schnippel said.
    Before the development can happen though, the tribe involved must gain federal recognition in Ohio. Then, because the land along I-75 apparently is not traditional Indian land, it must be placed into a federal trust. Finally, the tribe would have to negotiate a tribal-state compact with the state regarding casino operations and distribution of casino funds.
    Those details were provided by Jim Hill, a political science professor at Central Michigan University, who is considered an expert in gambling issues. Hill laid out the benefits and potential pitfalls if the town decides to move forward with the plan.
    Using the Mount Pleasant, Mich., Soaring Eagle casino as an example, Hill talked about the huge revenue local governments can reap from allowing gambling and its surrounding development.
    The Soaring Eagle casino, owned by the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, generates $400 million in annual revenue, Hill said. Tribe members are paid $78,000 in annual stipends. The city of Mount Pleasant brings in about $8 million annually from its negotiated cut of casino revenue, which does not include income taxes raised from casino employees, Hill said.
    While the money might be nice for Botkins, the only town in Shelby county to lose population over the past 20 years, there are other things to consider, Hill said.
    "There is going to be a change, a significant change in your community," if gambling comes to town, Hill said.
    While crime should not increase disproportionately, it will rise based on the sheer influx of people into the area, he said. Bankruptcies, cases of spousal abuse and child neglect and other similar issues will add to the demand for social services, he said. The area also would see a sharp spike in the demand for affordable housing and local minimum-wage employers might find themselves hard-pressed to find workers because casino jobs typically pay $9-$12 per hour, he said.
    Good planning and preparation can ease any potential problems, Hill said, but there are no guarantees. Resolving potentially contentious issues now, before moving forward, is the key to finding success, he said.
    "I'm not going to put a sugar coating on it. These things can happen," Hill said.
    Tom Steinke, who lives near the proposed development, said he supports the project for its likely economic impact. Steinke said he personally researched towns that have allowed gambling and found many success stories.
    "Each community is wealthy with development and the benefits businesses bring to the area," Steinke said.
    Crime per capita did not increase in the Michigan towns, Steinke said he studied, and also added that the local business community supports the project.
    Jim Thompson, a former Botkins police officer and village council member, warned residents about the ills of gambling. Legalized gambling in Illinois has been a vast financial success for the developers but a dismal failure for the local areas involved, Thompson said.
    Crime rates per capita, including domestic and child abuse cases, do increase in towns where casinos operate, he said. Thompson also criticized village officials for keeping a lid on the project for so long, including keeping it from the town's Community Improvement Corp., which is supposed to spearhead economic development issues.
    Opponents of the project plan a meeting for Thursday to discuss gambling issues. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is to attend and discuss the issue on a statewide level.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2003
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822