Marshall County may very well have been in line for a casino operated by the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, provided a gaming bill passes the legislature and the people of Alabama then approve it.
However, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Senate, had Marshall County removed from the bill as a specific site for the casino, leaving DeKalb and Jackson County as potential sites in northeast Alabama.
Will Ainsworth is as solid a guy as they come. I have enjoyed my friendship with him immensely and he is always quick to call me back if I have a question, even though I’m just a local reporter and he has so much going on such a larger stage these days.
He is opposed to casino gambling in Marshall County.
“I will do everything in my power to prevent a casino and the social ills that accompany it from locating in Marshall County,” he said in a statement.
That point is well worth considering, but in this instance, it might be better to let the people of Marshall County decide in a referendum whether they want a casino in the county. We’ve talked to several local officials about the situation. No one wants to go on the record and publicly buck Will on this issue, but we are told there is wide support among local officials for the casino.
What we’ve learned is that there is a large site that is off the beaten path that would likely be considered for the casino. It is in close proximity to Guntersville Lake, but not in any city.
Officials describe is as perfect for a casino. For one thing, it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” site that wouldn’t impact large numbers of neighbors.
The big selling points for allowing a casino in Marshall County is that it could potentially provide a lot of tax money for the financially strapped county schools and the sheriff’s office, which is looking at a need to build additional capacity onto the jail. The site is not in any town, so any tax revenues should go to the county.
The bothersome thing – at least to our local officials – about removing Marshall County from consideration is that our neighbors in Jackson and DeKalb County could instead get the casino and the ensuing tourist traffic that would go with it.
We are told the mayors feel the casino could be good for all the cities in Marshall County due to increased traffic throughout the county. They feel like it would dovetail into the development being built at City Harbor as well as Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheatre. We haven’t talked to everyone, but these are the points we’ve gleaned from those we have spoken with.
I am NOT advocating gambling by pointing these things out. I’m just sharing what we have learned in talking to several people. I am an evangelical Christian (perhaps not a very good one) and about the extent of my gambling has been spending $5 or $6 on the lottery when I’m driving through Tennessee. If I really splurge, I might spend $10 and buy a few scratch-off tickets as well.
I do know that people with addictive personalities can be drawn to gambling like a moth to a flame and there are people who might spend their whole paycheck trying to hit it big at a casino.
Lt. Gov. Ainsworth’s point is dead on in that regard. And I don’t have an answer to how you prevent that. I wish I did.
I write this just to inform people that a lot appears to be going on behind the scenes in regard to a casino in Marshall County.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see local officials come up with some kind of “Plan B” to get Marshall County back included in the gaming bill, some kind of quiet, behind-the-scenes effort. It appears more is at work here than most of us know.
In the end, it might be best to include language in the gaming bill to allow the people of Marshall County to decide if they want a casino in the county. There are certainly pros and cons and the voters should have the sense to sort those out.