Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rebuttal: Wynn and Philly

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a bizarre editorial earlier this month railing against the prospects of Steve Wynn getting a gaming license in Philly. The premise of their opposition: That Wynn would do something cheesy and low-brow. There was more to it, of course, so today the Inquirer printed this essay by yours truly:

Philadelphia is lucky to have casino mogul
Gambling critics ignore Wynn's highbrow record

As Philadelphia's gambling critics were jumping to groundless conclusions about Steve Wynn's plans for a waterfront casino in their city, Roger Thomas was musing about what it might actually look like.

Thomas is the visionary behind the look and feel of the Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore casinos in Las Vegas, as well as the Wynn casinos in Macau. Architectural Digest has named him one of the world's top 100 designers, and it gave him the prestigious gig of designing the backstage green room at the Kodak Theatre for this year's Academy Awards. That honor was the focus of my interview, but I also asked him about Philly.

"I've been thinking a lot about the history of Philadelphia," the Las Vegas native said. "It has one of the most important, oldest art museums in America, where the collection is presented like no other ... in period environments with furniture of the period, rather than being hung gallery style. ... They also have the Barnes collection, which, controversy aside, is the most important collection of post-Impressionist art, which is going to influence what we're going to do."

OK, so Thomas was already showing that he knows more about Philadelphia than the knee-jerk critics might suppose.

"Then I also look at the genesis of Philadelphia," Thomas went on. "No matter where you are in Philadelphia, you're always aware of the Federal period of architecture and the contributions of the Georgian period of architecture in England, and what that brought to institutional and residential architecture throughout the Eastern seaboard. So all of those things are combining in my head to form a new vocabulary to do our new project in Philadelphia."

Gosh, he sure doesn't sound like a scummy character looking to throw up some rundown slots box, does he? That was the purported basis for dismissals of Wynn by the Inquirer Editorial Board and others - that he would aim down-market.

But what's really behind the objections is the East Coast liberal elite's instinctive propensity to react badly to gambling. For some reason, the fact that the vast majority of casino-goers have no trouble keeping their spending within reason escapes these critics, who also tend to believe that poor people are stupid, defenseless, and without willpower.

Read the rest at here at Philly.Com. The comments are brilliant -- people telling *ME* I don't understand gambling. Ha!


Goon29 said...

For a city as liberal as Philly is, I am always amazed at what a huge knee jerk reaction there always is to change. This is the same reason why we have a beautiful ball park where you need binoculars to see the skyline.

A tip for Steve Wynn though... adding a dog park and a lounge called "Vinyl" would probably seal the deal.

GlenwoodNYCsucks said...

totally agree. These guys in Philly have it backwards - us analysts on Wall Street are afraid Wynn will do too much, not too little.

sageblue said...

As a longtime listener of your podcast, I was pleased to see your byline in my newspaper this morning, until I read your piece. I understand that you are responding to the Inquirer's "bizarre editorial," but I'm not quite sure why you had to stoop to their level and brandish your own "knee-jerk" epithets like the tired and tiresome "East Coast liberal elite." I suppose that I fit that lazy stereotype as a (gay) liberal living on the East Coast, but I also go to Atlantic City every other month and Las Vegas twice a year. I like gambling. I don't have a problem with there being more of it. However, in this case, what I do not support is how Philadelphia has had to receive these planned casinos -- basically being dictated to by a state board where they should be placed, regardless of how it fits into the city's plans. This is not just NIMBY-ism run amok: this is a city being told how major development will take place. It is this reason which is likely why the Inquirer editorial comes across as so unhinged: many Philly people are mad about how this has gone down. For a more reasoned take, I hope you read this editorial about the planning and land use issues at stake before you wrote your editorial so you were completely informed. I agree with you that, given his track record, it is likely Wynn will create a nice casino, but I think you resorted to simplistic arguments and name-calling to argue why Philadelphians may be against his plans.

atdnext said...

Since you created a new thread here, I'll thank you again for a great job on The Philly Inquirer op-ed. All in all, it's a well reasoned argument for Wynn's casino... And the whole concept of casino gaming.

I just have to nit-pick over your use of "liberal elite", since not all of us liberals are anti-gaming. In fact, much of the opposition still comes from the far right.

Otherwise, I was happy to read it. It's a good piece that refutes the sillier arguments that anti-gaming folks on the left and the right use to bash Las Vegas, AC, Philly, and other gaming destinations.