Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

Once upon a time you had to travel to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to frequent a casino.

Those days are a dim dot on history’s horizon.

Folks are gambling everywhere and anywhere. They’re surrounding us — Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia and Parx Casino in Bensalem.

Now Berks County may be getting in the game. The Hollywood Casino Morgantown has been proposed for Caernarvon Township.

There will be a public hearing on the proposal on Monday, March 4, at 4 p.m. at the township municipal building.

I don’t reside in Caernarvon but if I had a vote, I’d say such the township would hit the jackpot with such a casino. Not only would it throttle more life and neon into the area, but money as well.

I hope the people in Caernarvon push their chips to the center of the table, realizing that going for a casino is a prudent gamble.

The project would be on a 36-acre site near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 176 and Route 10, providing easy access to patrons from Berks County, Central Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia area.

It would include a $111 million casino with an 80,000-square-foot building featuring 750 slot machines, 30 table games, a full-sports betting lounge, room for 10 more table games, a restaurant, entertainment lounge and food court.

Legalized gambling has become accepted in most sectors of our society as opposed to the sleazy illegal gambling world inhabited by bookies with the scruples of a snake, knuckle breakers for those bettors who welch, and shady but lovable fictional characters like Nathan Detroit, Big Jule and Harry the Horse.

Today casinos are managed by corporations such as Penn National Gaming that has proposed building Hollywood Casino Morgantown, not infamous organized crime figures like Bugsy Siegel.

I’m not a betting man myself but I would wager that Hollywood Casino Morgantown would create tax revenues and jobs in Caernarvon. Those tax revenues then could be used to provide additional services and infrastructure to the community.

An entertainment facility like a casino can bring tourists to the community. Hotels, restaurants and transportation hubs often are built near casinos.

Granted, anti-casino folks usually cite the social costs such as problem gambling and crime.

Frankly, if somebody has a gambling problem, they will find an outlet to feed their addiction whether or not there is a Morgantown casino. Meanwhile, such a casino would provide convenient access to many gamblers who don’t have a problem.

Linking crime to casinos is not always a safe bet, as studies have shown. Crime has gone up in some areas with casinos and has gone down in other areas with casinos. Other factors in the crime rate obviously exist.

One of the primary reasons why people gamble is that it’s human nature to feel excited when taking a risk. The sense of anticipation creates a natural high, an adrenaline rush.

Gamblers realize that it’s a high-risk, low-yield situation. The odds always favor the house. Nevertheless, the thought and excitement of hitting a casino jackpot are often too alluring – regardless of its probability.

Life is full of gambles and people take them.

So should Caernarvon.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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