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The Big Gamble: Do Casinos Mean a Boom to Area Businesses

(WGGB) — Whether you are in the North End, South End, or East End of Springfield or Palmer, it’s the question that the business community wants an answer to: if world class casinos will bring business boost or business doom.

The cement is being poured and the windows washed.

Downtown Cincinnati’s new casino is set to open next spring and according to local entrepreneurs, so too are new businesses that bought up these adjacent store fronts

“The casino benefited by being in an area that could be cleaned up very well. It would take the free enterprise system to come in and get it done through rehabs and upgrading the buildings and putting satellite businesses that would compliment the casino in the area,” says Jim Verdin, a Cincinnati entrepreneur.

Verdin is expanding restaurants he already owns near the casino and has bought extra property, too. He says that even though the casino isn’t open yet, it’s already helped dig a once derelict neighborhood out of the recession

“The perception of the casino coming in stabilized all that and now we find property getting picked up at higher prices,” Verdin adds.

Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino is downtown but not surrounded by small businesses. City planners say the casino was designed to complement other businesses all throughout the city

“The biggest impact has been the revenue its put off that we are able to redeploy local for economic development,” says Robert Rubenstein from the local Urban Development Authority.

Such as in the city’s North side. It’s miles from the Rivers but casino money is used to redevelop East Ohio Street.

Bistro-to-Go is part of the project.

“I think it has been getting better because of businesses that have really stepped into this environment to make change and they put everything on the line to do that,” adds Nikki Hickman, owner of Bistro-to-Go.

The Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce says Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos have been major economic engines for the region

“The dollar value of goods and services that they purchase in the region is enormous. There’s been a very positive impact on the economy of eastern Connecticut,” says Tony Sheridan of the Eastern Conn. Chamber.

Businesses located in the shadows of the casino like this package store just a couple miles away say they get a lot of business from Mohegan Sun, but not necessarily travelers.

“I’d say at least 50 percent of the people that come in the store work there and they live right in the area, that’s why,” says store owner Ken Paulk.

Nicholas Kilmos, owner of Great Oak Pizza, located just feet from Mohegan Sun, acknowledges that the casino brings some draw backs.

“Lot of people come and ask for directions. If i get a dollar for every direction I get, I should be a millionaire now!” Kilmos jokes.

While those folks don’t necessarily buy pizzas, Kilmos still says business is better with a casino than without.

It’s the same reason Paulk thinks small business owners in western Mass. will win with a casino.

“I’d say definitely they are going to do a lot better. It’s going to bring money into the area because of all the workers that it’s going to bring in.”


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