Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winning hand for Chester from legalized gambling

Much has been said – and written – about whether or not the expansion of legalized gambling has been good for the city of Chester.

No doubt the arrival of Harrah’s gave the city and county a much-needed shot in the arm.

But its detractors point out that not enough of that benefit has trickled down to the citizens of Chester, those who likely could use it most.

Instead, they maintain that Chester citizens make their way to the casino to plunk down their money, but are sometimes an afterthought when it comes to the benefits. One particular sore spot has been the stringent background checks for jobs in the casino, something that blocks a lot of people in Chester from working there.

But there is no arguing one very important benefit derived from Harrah’s that came to fruition this week. It is something that will have a direct, tangible effect on young people in the city.

This week Mayor Wendell Butler and Chester Upland School Board President Wanda Mann signed off on a deal that will allow the troubled district to join the list of “sponsoring” school districts with Delaware County Community College.

The deal will be paid for with a 1 percent cut of the take from the arrival of table games at Harrah’s.

Being a sponsoring district means that kids in Chester, and the other towns in the Chester Upland School District, can attend Delaware County Community College at a much-reduced price. City kids will now pay $97 per credit hour at DCCC, as opposed to the $194 tab they have been staring at.

A little simple math (even a newspaper editor can handle that one, I think) shows their costs just got cut in half.

The argument over gambling in Pennsylvania – and Chester – no doubt will continue.

But I think we can now end the talk about what city residents are getting out of the deal.

Just ask any Chester kid who wants to attend DCCC. For them, the high costs of a college education just got lower. And they can thank Harrah’s and legalized gambling. That strikes me as a winning hand for the city.

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