In the Post-Gazette today:
Featuring a DCSki member
Some Seven Springs patrons not happy about proposed casino
Gambling at ski resort a slippery slope?
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For Michael Betteridge, skiing is a family affair. He learned to shush down the slopes at Seven Springs a decade ago with his college-age daughter, and he's been doing it since, going at the beginning of each ski season, and maybe once or twice more before the season ends.
But he won't be doing it again -- not if Seven Springs makes good on its bid to build a 500-slot machine casino next to the resort's convention center.
"I have seen lives destroyed by gambling addiction firsthand," said Mr. Betteridge, a Frederick, Md., resident who volunteers at the Frederick Rescue Mission. The mission combats addiction, usually drugs and alcohol, but every once in a while, they see a gambling addict.
When he found out, via e-mail, that Seven Springs wanted to build a casino, he "personally wrote a letter to Seven Springs and told them that I was opposed to this casino venture at many levels." He'd never frequent their slopes again if they were to open a gambling enterprise, he said in the letter.
Mr. Betteridge is one of a small but impassioned group of patrons who say that if a casino comes to Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County, they'll ski elsewhere. A public hearing that will help determine Seven Springs' ability to operate a casino is scheduled for tomorrow at the Quality Inn & Conference Center, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Somerset exit.
Seven Springs' owners want to put a casino, if they win the rights to build it, at the north end of the resort, away from the hotel, video arcade and bowling lanes, and away from the schoolchildren and their parents visiting the ski slopes for the weekend. And while that placement would seem to satisfy most of the visitors who wish to ski but not gamble, there are some who object to the casino's presence altogether.
Casinos built from scratch -- like the one that will eventually be built in Pittsburgh -- won't offend existing clientele, because there is no existing clientele. Ditto for the casinos that will be built at racetracks, because customers who are betting on ponies presumably won't have a problem with slot machines.
But Seven Springs runs the risk of offending some portion of its existing customer base, as well as potential future visitors who might be turned off.
Brad Walker, of Hardy County, W.Va., is one of them. Mr. Walker, a snowboarder, says his friend grew up in a family where gambling was commonplace.
"And now he has a pretty bad gambling compulsion," having once lost $1,500 in just 45 minutes in front of a slot machine.
Scott Bender, president of Seven Springs, said in an e-mail that opinions like these are regrettable, but in the minority.
"We e-mailed and mailed tens of thousands of slots brochures and literature, and there have been few negative responses," he said. "We couldn't be more pleased with the support and well-wishes we've received. They have far outweighed the negative responses. That's the feel we have from monitoring this."
Seven Springs is one of two applicants for two available "resort" licenses. Winners of resort licenses are allowed to operate up to 500 slot machines, while other casinos will be allowed to have up to 5,000 machines.