South Dakota's first priority: building another casino. I'm having trouble working that into a campaign slogan.
Heidepriem's proposal does tie together a whole mess of potential voting blocs. If you buy his argument, his fight-fire-with-fire proposal wins local Chamber of Commerce types, Sioux Falls event center boosters (Heidepriem says he'd direct casino revenues toward building that grand dream for Sioux Falls), and Native Americans who might run the Sioux Falls-area casino.
But I get a bad vibe from the proposal. If we're making a bigger pie, it's a gambling pie, and I don't care much for that pie as the staple of our economic diet. Much of Heidepriem's own reasoning is that gambling is bad, it causes social problems that we're going to have to pay for, so we might as well cash in on the revenue side, too. I have trouble getting up my ambition to fight to expand an industry that causes addiction and other social problems. (But I eagerly await riffs on this theme from Mr. Newland and activists of other flavors to advocate legalizing marijuana, prostitution, gay marriage....)
And if there's only so much pie (and that seems to be the competitive tenor of Heidepriem's "Don't mess with South Dakota" press release), then we're really gambling that as the two casinos compete, the one on our side of the border will win and drive those darned Iowans out of work. "Screw Iowa!" doesn't sound like a great rallying cry for the troops, either.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dennis Daugaard is playing Mr. Mellow on this issue. He might also be playing Mr. Logical. He looks at a casino in Lyon County, Iowa, with a population hardly 6% the size of adjoining Minnehaha County. Daugaard may be thinking what I'm thinking, that an Iowa casino might not be a zero-sum game:
- We're already seeing $7.5 million of the $50 million construction budget go to South Dakota contractors.
- The casino will hire over 700 people. There are 788 people in Larchwood, and I suspect some of them are already spoken for jobwise. There are 5,595 people looking for work in the Sioux Falls metro area.
- Suppose 100,000 out-of-staters say, "Hey! Let's go gamble in historic Larchwood, Iowa!" Do you think they're going to fly into Larchwood Metropolitan Airport? No. They're going to fly into Sioux Falls. They're going to rent a car in Sioux Falls. They're going to stop at the Sioux Falls Target to get the toothbrush and swim trunks and whatever else they forgot to pack. They're going to spend a day golfing and gambling in Larchwood, say, "Well, that was fun, now what?" And then they're going to come back to Sioux Falls to see a movie or a show at the Pavilion or whatever other brilliant entertainment a synergy-minded convention and visitors bureau can come up with. And for every visitor who wants to spend the night in tranquil, bucolic Larchwood, I'll bet we can find one or two who'd prefer to end the day with jazz and a martini under the sparkling downtown lights of Sioux Falls.
Once again, I can hear my fellow Dems telling me, "Ah, but this is the good political strategy! South Dakotans will eat this stuff up!" Yeah, maybe they will. Maybe raising a bold middle finger across the Big Sioux toward our dastardly Iowegian neighbors is just the thing to get the typical South Dakota voter fired up and ready to go Dem in November. And if Iowa flipped us the bird first, well, maybe they have a fight coming.
But I don't like it. Instead of trying to drive Larchwood out of business, we should focus on looking for other opportunities to build on the increased economic flow Grand Falls Casino will draw. If Iowa's building better mousetraps, let's fire up the cheese factories.
Think synergy, not scarcity.
p.s.: There has been some bragging from the Iowa side about how the "vast majority" of Grand Falls Casino's revenue will come from South Dakota. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that building a business model on the promise of drawing lots of big-spending South Dakotans is... overly optimistic?