EP Award Promo

Three counties, one casino – place your bets


Fairly late in his career, Mark Twain wrote a story about a man who uses a sack of (fake) gold to change a town forever. The townspeople had thought of themselves as incorruptibly honest, but of course an untested virtue is no virtue at all, and the lure of easy money was all it took to shake loose big waves of envy and greed.

Mr. Twain, meet the Tri-County Regional Inter-Community Agreement for Development.

Eventually, that title will have an organization to go with it and a mission — find a place for a casino that will put Prairie Meadows to shame, if not out of business. Des Moines dropped out and Polk County appears to be on the sideline, but Earlham and Waukee are just getting warmed up.

The drive for more casino gambling was juicy enough already; now we get to watch this bolted-together fellowship add a whole new dimension of intrigue. The supervisors of those three counties are going to sit down and reasonably decide where this thing should be planted. That’s right, three government bodies are going to cooperate on a lucrative and controversial project and make a decision based on the best interests of all involved.

How smoothly will that go? As one observer noted, “How’s that city-county merger coming along?”

Sure, they can cook up a revenue-sharing formula, but a fancy resort/hotel/casino complex represents far more than a huge wad of cash. Depending on your point of view, it’s something that puts your town on the map and pulls free-spending visitors and future development like a magnet, or it’s selling your soul to the devil.

The fascinating part is how your point of view can change.

Let’s say you think gambling is a bad thing. Now let’s say somebody offers you millions of dollars that will roll in every year to help you build schools, parks and streets. All you have to do is tell yourself, “Hey, if we don’t get it, somebody else will” and your worldview has been redefined.

None of us would find the offer easy to turn down. Whatever happens, nobody can feel superior to the communities on the metro’s Gold Coast. They just happen to be on the corner of town where big deals are being made, landscapes changed, traditions shelved.

But now the spotlight has been switched on and we’ll get to watch them act, react, shift and reconsider. Who wants it the most? What will they offer? What are they willing to do to cut the legs out from under the other guys?

But of course there’s another twist to the plot. After all of this wrangling creates lasting fractures in the tri-county area, we might find out that they were fighting over nothing more than an illusion.

First, the voters have their say in November. Then we have to wait to find out whether the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will grant another casino license in this area at all. If they say no, the rumors, conspiracies and hard feelings will have been for nothing. Of course, the effects will remain.

Mark Twain was a bitter, disillusioned man as he approached the finish line. That can happen if you pay too much attention.

jca brd 120122 300x250