As casinos match best quarter ever in pa, raking in over $11.1 Billion (q1 2021), what are the repercussions? like other retail giants have done in the past, does a new casino in town really create a better economy for all?
Are casinos the new Wal-Mart?
Obviously not in the same general retail sense, but in the way they affect the local economy. When Wal-Mart first arrived in suburban America, it completely gutted the old downtown and main street districts of the little towns that dotted the countryside.
There are many examples of this happening throughout Western PA. It happened in Erie with the commercialization of upper Peach Street which hollowed out the downtown stores. Even the ones like the Erie Sports Store that played the game and tried to go box store instead of downtown boutique sporting goods store and they still didn’t make it. This happened in Hempfield Township which hollowed out the downtown districts of Greensburg and Jeannette. This happened in Venango County with the Cranberry Wal-Mart helping to kill off what was left of downtown Oil City and Franklin.
Towns have rebounded or hung on or found their way to fight the big box store, but the effects are undeniable. Where the Wal-Marts went, other businesses (mostly other national chains) soon followed, and as a matter of convenience, consumer behavior shifted to avoiding the hassle of having to make several stops in hard-to-park downtowns and instead settled into one stop shop living with nice large parking lots.
This has been much talked about in our region, and we’re not trying to shame people here – we’re all trying to save a buck where we can, and if Wal-Mart has the best price for a TV, then that’s where the TV ought to be bought. Let’s be frank here, the competition for Wal-Mart is generally another box store like Best Buy or Target, and not Al’s TV store downtown on the corner next to the library.
No, this article is about casinos potentially having that same effect on the local communities they are moving into. For a long time, casinos in Pennsylvania were pretty scarce. There was one in Erie, and one in Washington PA south of Pittsburgh, and then there were the out of state options like Wheeling and the Indian Reserve ones in Western NY. Then, all of a sudden, The Rivers showed up in Pittsburgh. Lady Luck casino opened in Fayette County as an attraction at Nemacolin Resort, and most recently, one opened in Westmoreland mall about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh out in the suburbs.
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