There is a saying in sales, “Always sell the sizzle.” Recently, I attended a presentation by Twin River's Chairman John Taylor in which he laid out the details of his proposed casino off Route 24 in Tiverton for approximately a dozen attendees.
By Revs. John E. Higginbotham, William Sterrett, Missy Quay, Patrick Crough, Joseph Runner and Charles Simonson
Posted Jun. 11, 2015 at 5:24 PM
There is a saying in sales, “Always sell the sizzle.” Recently, I attended a presentation by Twin River’s Chairman John Taylor in which he laid out the details of his proposed casino off Route 24 in Tiverton for approximately a dozen attendees.
Taylor was low key, relaxed, pleasant and most of all, confident. He spoke about a 75,000 square foot facility, with 1,000 slot machines and gaming tables. He projected approximately 300-350 jobs for Rhode Islanders and $4 million dollars turned back to the Town of Tiverton annually. He quieted concerns about garish signage, security within the facility, safety and the presence of state and local police officers along with EMTs 24/7/365 days a year. In great detail, he gave us a glimpse into the world of casino gambling as he compared and contrasted the gaming industry by using examples of other facilities spread across the country and in the state of Rhode Island. Taylor artfully and in a truly understated manner sold the ‘sizzle’ to a receptive and supportive audience.
As the priest and pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Tiverton, I am the spiritual leader of a congregation of souls many of whom live in the town of Tiverton. For the most part, the parish priest speaks with a pastoral voice, but there are times when the priest by virtue of the vocation, must speak with a prophetic voice to the community, as well. The interfaith clergy of Tiverton believes state sponsored predatory casino gambling is a direct threat to the soul of every gambler and to the soul of the Town of Tiverton because this casino is about one thing and one thing alone. It’s all about the money. The rest is “sizzle.” The rest is packaging to sell a short sighted ‘quick fix’ to a cash strapped town. The problem with selling a casino with all that ‘sizzle’ and all those benefits is that it tends to conveniently overlook the assault inflicted upon the human soul by casino gambling, namely addiction.
Taylor addressed this after a question was asked concerning the effect of casino gambling upon the poor by pointing out that on each of his slot machines there is a 1-800 number for Gamblers Anonymous and if that’s not enough 1 in 10 casino employees is trained to spot a “problem gambler” upon which the gambler will receive information pointing them to the United Way and free psychotherapy. You can even place yourself on a “self-exclusion” list that is used by the casino to prevent you from gambling when it becomes problematic.
By the time a person gets to this point of desperation, when the last bet has been made at the gaming tables, when the last dollar has been taken by the slot machine, it’s too little, too late because over time this addiction will have given the casino the player’s paychecks, savings, mortgage, car payments, the kid’s college tuition fund, and the IRA meant for retirement, etc., until the money is gone. We shouldn’t be angry because that is what the “house” is designed to do. With the odds so heavily stacked in its favor, it cannot help but separate the player from their money. The insidious part of casino gambling is that the gambler’s life and the life of their family is deeply affected and damaged by this disease. The soul of everyone who loves and cares for this person is offended and often feels betrayed.
The most significant problem for the gambler comes with a very real addiction and a life time of recovery and reconciliation with themselves and their effected family members. Gambling is not a solitary disease. There is plenty of collateral damage to go around. Spouses, children and loved ones will have to recover from the emotional, psychological and spiritual betrayal caused by a family member’s gambling addiction. So, where do they go to get their lives back?
If the voters of Tiverton allow Taylor to plant this pathogen in their town alongside Route 24, the disease it creates will have a profound effect upon the collective soul of Tiverton. The town of Tiverton, as we now know it, will not be changed for the better. It will be ruined. Gambling is not and never will be the financial panacea sold by casino operators to any town, city or state. Look at Reno, Nevada; Atlantic City, New Jersey and even the state of Connecticut. Just look at the odds and ask yourself this question.
Is gambling with the soul of Tiverton worth losing it?
The Rev. John E. Higginbotham, Holy Trinity Church and the Interfaith Clergy of Tiverton, Rev. William Sterrett, Amicable Congregational Church, Rev. Missy Quay, Community of Christ Church, Rev. Patrick Crough, First Old Stone Baptist Church, Rev. Joseph Runner, retired UCC and Rev. Charles Simonson, retired UCC.