Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Editorial | Straw Ballot on Casinos

A vote they can't prevent

Philadelphia anti-casino activists who are being denied a vote on the location of casinos in the city could express their anger and frustration with a spirited City Hall rally, and then go home.

But on Tuesday, they intend to go the extra mile - many miles, in fact - in a worthwhile effort to make their case to policymakers.

Since it appears the state Supreme Court won't permit an actual vote on casinos, the activists plan to give Philadelphia residents a chance to express themselves in a straw vote to be held outside many polling places.

The unofficial ballot question in the so-called Philly's Ballot Box effort will be the same one approved by City Council for the primary: Should the city keep casino slot parlors 1,500 feet away from schools, homes, places of worship, parks, or playgrounds? A temporary injunction is preventing an official vote.

However people might choose to answer that question, they should take a moment after casting their for-real primary vote to voice their views in the straw ballot.

Details on the straw vote effort are available online at

The activists behind the straw vote believe Philadelphia got a raw deal by being force-fed a pair of slots parlors on the Delaware River waterfront. They make a compelling case.

Not only has prime waterfront land been set aside for the state-licensed casinos, but also the impact on traffic-choked Columbus Boulevard and nearby residents has been given short shrift.

More consideration also should be given to the likely negative impact of easier access to gambling on poor communities.

The whole casinos effort has been sold on the basis of the millions of dollars it promises for tax relief, city schools, and the Convention Center expansion.

The most immediate, tangible result from moving ahead with the casinos would be the construction jobs created - evident from the hard-hatted crowd rallying in Center City on Wednesday in favor of the project.

Jobs for construction workers are important, for sure, even if many will go to suburbanites. The same holds for the hundreds of jobs created at the casinos, many of which will be filled by city residents.

But it's still hard to justify the sites chosen by the state Gaming Control Board for the Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos - particularly when other casino proposals would have meant fewer traffic snarls and possibly greater tax revenues.

City residents weren't even asked whether they want slots gambling. Tuesday's straw vote is their chance to be heard at last.