The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has plans to transform an oversized parking lot at Pocono Downs into a gleaming new casino with thousands of slot machines.
And while they have said they'd like the "Racino" to be a regional draw pulling from as far north as Binghamton, N.Y., and as far south as Allentown, they're focusing on the facility as a primarily local casino.
That translates into millions of dollars being siphoned from the local economy each year, according to William Thompson, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor who prepared a report on potential state revenue from slots for Gov. Ed Rendell in 2003.
I have talked to many people who go to Atlantic City on a regular basis to play the machines. Only one has told me they plan to go to Pocono Downs when the slots are installed. Most people enjoy the trip to New Jersey. If you take the bus the casino gives you your money back. Plus there allot of other things to do such as the boardwalk and big name entertainment.
Even considering the property tax relief funded by statewide casino revenues and the casino-sponsored subsidies to the counties and municipalities that host the facilities, the endeavor could still be a loss to the Wyoming Valley's economy, Thompson said.
"It's a loser for you economically," he said.
Thompson, who expects gamblers to be 95 percent local at the Plains Township casino, contends there is no way the casino can be a winner for the local population.
If the facility doesn't attract people from out of the area the expected development along Rte. 315 and Fox Hill road will not amount to much more than another gas station and a fast food joint. There is rumor a hotel is going to be built at the intersection next to the bank but I haven't seen anything in the papers or talked to anyone with first hand knowledge of the project.
And there may be a daily drain on the economy as well.
Mohegan officials have said they expect thousands of gamblers to lose as much as $300,000 at the slots every day.
And most of that money will be coming out of local gambler's pockets.
So local property and some school taxes will be voluntary if enough people go there. BIG IF. Right from the start I doubted slot machines would generate as much money as hoped for. I hope I'm wrong and the Racino generates significant out of town traffic and the expected revenue. But the more I read and hear about it discourages me. On the plus side if all the seniors are playing slots I won't have to stand in line behind some geezer buying $100 worth of Daily Numbers when I want a lottery ticket.