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|02-01-03: Gambling and more Botkins officials release
details of development project
|By TIMOTHY COX
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
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
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
"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
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.
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