At a time when the city is financially strapped, revenues are down, and crime is spiraling to unprecedented levels, Detroit is set to take another financial hit. This time not from the city itself, but from neighboring Ohio where the push to establish four casinos there is going to chip away at the city’s coffers.
Our leaders are noticeably silent on this issue that will seriously affect jobs in Detroit —
not that they can do much about it because we live in and acknowledge the free market enterprise principles that allow for competition in the marketplace.
The bare fact, according to McKinsey & Co., is that with the existence of the Ohio casinos, Detroit would stand to lose $30 million in annual casino tax revenue by 2015.
Because a significant number of patrons of the casinos in Detroit — MGM, Greektown and Motor City — come from places like Toledo, Ohio. With Ohio now competing against Detroit, those patrons would no longer see the need to drive the distance to Detroit to gamble.
The Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland opened on Monday, the Hollywood casino in Toledo will open May 29 and two more are set to open in Cincinnati.
For Detroit, no matter where we stand on the morality of gambling, all three casinos create jobs for residents of the city and contribute to the treasury.
Just last year, all three casinos contributed $177 million to the city’s $1.2 billion general fund, and if that amount is now slashed by $30 million, it means Detroit would have to cut or reduce services.
This is a crucial economic issue for the city, and could create more headaches as the city attempts to move forward. The unemployment numbers are deplorable as is the case with urban centers around the nation, with more than 50 percent of young Black males being unemployed.
And anyone who thinks the high rate of crime in Detroit is not tied to the economic climate we find ourselves in is living on another planet.
While the bleeding economic atmosphere is not a justifiable reason for crime, including armed robbery and selling drugs, and commiting acts of violence, the reality is that some of the young men involved in heinous crimes are not only acting out of desperation, but out of an economic need, even holding their victims at gunpoint at places where a lot of financial transactions takes place, such as gas stations and shopping malls.
Because they do not see any alternative, they take to guns and drugs, literally transforming some of our neighborhood streets into war zones. Some of the culprits are repeat offenders, others are young people pressured by their peers to take to the streets as a rite of passage as opposed to being meaningfully engaged in activities that will help them become productive, despite the absence of employment.
A dire economy makes matters worse because it creates a “survival of the fittest” climate in which too many of our young people are turning to criminal activity instead of interpreting it as a climate to make use of their talents in a way that allows them to find a sense of achievement now and assures their futures.
This is the reality we live in. This is the truth that Detroit must face.
Abraham Joshua Herschel reminded us that “in a democracy, some are guilty but all are responsible,” and in this current tough economic climate, we are all responsible for the crisis. Our leaders cannot abdicate themselves from an economic dispensation where jobs are hard to come by, and its relation to the high ratio of crime been committed in Detroit.
They now have to be creative and discover how to widen the city’s revenue base.
When the city starts losing millions of dollars in casino tax it would, among other things, mean job losses. The dependents of those employees will feel the pinch including their children. It would also mean fewer people visiting Detroit and patronizing the entertainment centers, restaurants and everything else the city has to offer.
Certainly, the challenge for the three casinos in Detroit will be to become more competitive as Ohio competes for the same clients that made Detroit the Las Vegas of the Midwest.
The fact of the matter is that Detroit will have to start making projections about the city’s economic future and how to be prepared when bad news such as this comes.
Unfortunately we are very reactive, and not proactive. The writing was already on the wall about the casinos in Ohio.
Now, some are beginning to feel the heat after a national study validated the fears of some about why Ohio will undercut Detroit and underscores why this moment in the era of a consent agreement is even more important.
As Detroit goes through a chapter of financial surgery with the appointment of Jack Martin as chief financial officer, along with the Financial Advisory Board,
the mayor and City Council, we hope that the Ohio situation will prove that we can be a community that thinks prudently and makes plans so as to be prepared when unexpected things happen in the future.
Dr. Benjamin Mays, former president of Morehouse College and a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “The man who outthinks you, rules you.”
That is what Ohio is doing to Detroit.
What will be our city’s response?
Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published last year. His latest book is ”Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and ”Obama and Business Loyalty.” Listen to him every Thursday morning on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m., on “The Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org“>email@example.com.