Mayor: Casino in city could stop tax hike

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana wants to bring a casino in the city for four main reasons: to help bring in additional revenue that could widen annual tight budgets; to help prevent property tax hikes; and to provide construction- and gambling-related jobs.

“Hey, I’m interested after the Associated Press reporter called me,” Campana said Monday, following a recent story that indicated the state may be granting up to 10 licenses for existing casino owners to bring in what’s called miniaturized casinos into communities wanting to support gambling.

After learning about the potential of mini-casinos, Campana said he reached out to two casino owners.

The host city gets 2 percent of the revenue generated by the mini-casino, Campana said.

He said he spoke to representatives from Mt. Airy Lodge and a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The representatives were interested in further discussion, he said.

“I will speak with residents at a town hall meeting too,” he said. “I’ve heard from people who travel outside of the city and would rather not travel any distance to gamble.”

Having a casino likely would increase occupancy rates for local hotels and use of restaurants, he said.

If that is what the city residents want, the mayor said he would provide site tours to casino developers, showing them vacant lots within the appropriately zoned areas.

While the mayor’s goal in next year’s budget, which is in its preliminary phase, is not to increase property taxes, Campana said the state lawmakers are not helping to ease the burden cities have to provide pension obligations to unionized workers.

“Each year we need to find more creative ways to bring in revenue other than increasing taxes, slashing jobs or reducing key services,” he said.

Gary Knarr, city zoning officer, said a casino could be located in the central business district or another commercial district.