There’s rumor of attracting a casino to Walker County. In responding to a caller to a local cable-access show on September 23rd, Commissioner Bebe Heiskell responded to a caller who posed the question. From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:
“I’d rather it go in Walker County, and I hope that doesn’t make me a hypocrite Christian,” she said. “But they’re going to go somewhere and do it. And we have to have some way — besides property tax — to raise money around here.”
Sunday sales failed when it was on the ballot last year, so getting this on the ballot and passing in a very socially conservative area would be an amazing feat. 53% of people pulling a Republican primary ballot in Walker County opposed the question posed by the state GOP of casino gambling with revenues going to education. In spite of the outcome of the question, I believe the merits of casino gambling should be debated. I personally wouldn’t object to a casino resort if it would help mitigate additional increases in property tax (which rose from 4.705 to 8.725 in the past couple of years in part to securing some of the debt that our local hospital, Hutcheson Medical Center, has accrued). However, depending on how the proposal is stated, I don’t believe we would be getting a lot of cash from the revenues of the casino.
Our local commissioner elections will, I suspect, be highly contested. Commissioner Heiskell sounds to be mounting a re-election campaign, but I know of a couple of people who have said they would consider a challenge against her in the 2016 Republican Primary. Whether or not those people actually qualify is a different story. She won the 2012 primary by around 200 votes. I suspect it will be a bit tougher this go around if the casino idea is still being floated along with the recent increase in property tax.
Our county is trying to draw in tourist dollars, and with being so close to Chattanooga it’s hard to blame them. It seems to me though that our county is more industrial-minded, but those factories are shutting down and moving…although, we are seeing a large plastics manufacturer building a plant in Rock Spring.
I have no doubt that talks of a casino stems from the fact that there is talk across the state about expanding the gambling industry in our state. Whether or not proponents of gambling can convince a statewide electorate and garner support of locals remains to be seen.