Casino Development and the Right to the City: Conflict and Community Place-Making in Philadelphia
|Shlay, Anne B.
|Balzarini, John Edward
|ABSTRACT Casino Development and the Right to the City: Conflict and Community Place-Making in Philadelphia John E. Balzarini Temple University, 2013 Doctoral Advisory Committee Chair: Dr. Anne Shlay This dissertation focuses on the right to the city and community conflict over casino development in Philadelphia. Community outrage erupted in 2006 following the selection of two casinos to be built in Philadelphia. Sugarhouse Casino was planned for construction in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood and Foxwoods Casino was planned for South Philadelphia neighboring the Society Hill, Queen Village and Pennsport communities. For a brief time between 2008 and 2009, plans to develop the Foxwoods Casino moved downtown to Philadelphia's Chinatown community. This dissertation explores the framing of community needs, vulnerabilities and conflict over casino development in each of these three communities and how these framing strategies were used as a foundation for expressing community power. I use a variety of data in this dissertation including in-depth content analysis of the local Philadelphia media, sight observations of casinos, anti-casino actions and town hall meetings. The most important data for this research comes from twenty-nine, one-on-one, semi-structured interviews with a variety of people involved with or knowledgeable about casino development in Philadelphia including anti-casino activists and community members, pro-casino community members, local political officials and their aides, and casino advisors and representatives. A number of ideas and themes are explored in this dissertation dealing with casino development, neighborhood power and the different ways in which community members framed casino development. In chapter three I analyze the debate between casino supporters and casino opponents over the outcomes of casino development for urban regions and residents. If, as many casino supporters claim, casinos attract people from outside a region to spend their money, then I argue the casino has succeeded in attracting revenue to the region in a pattern of neoliberal revitalization. If, on the other hand, casino development fails to attract many visitors from outside a region and relies primarily on local consumers, I argue the casino operates as a form of accumulation by dispossession where wealth is diverted from the locality to the casino and the state. I argue that as more casinos are developed in Pennsylvania, and indeed across the country, the likelihood that a casino is reliant on a localized population increases. If casinos fail to attract consumers from outside a region then no new economic stimulation is achieved. Instead, consumer spending is diverted from other local businesses and directed to the casino. This coupled with increases in gambling addiction have the net effect of harming a regional economy. These new problems created by development of convenience casinos will create new social and economic crises that states and municipalities will need to deal with in the future. Chapters four and five analyze the framing of conflict and the right to the city in three Philadelphia communities where casinos were planned for development. Chapter four focuses on the framing of conflict in Fishtown over the development of the Sugarhouse Casino. In Fishtown, gentrification was an important factor explaining the division between long-time residents who largely supported casino construction and many newer residents who opposed the casino. Newer residents framed the casino as a negative addition to the community, one that would increase gambling addiction and crime, deteriorate the neighborhood and compete with local businesses. They framed the casino selection process as undemocratic, transpiring behind closed doors away from public input. Because of this, many newer residents believed the casino was an unjust form of development. On the other hand, long-time residents viewed the casino as a positive addition to the community. These people argued that SugarHouse would provide jobs to Fishtown residents, economic development, as well as direct monetary benefits to the community. Both long-time residents and newer residents framed the casino according to divergent place-based appraisal of needs and community authenticity. Newer residents argued that the casino was a predatory industry that would inhibit the improvements that were occurring in the community. Long-time residents argued that newer residents were not true and authentic members of the Fishtown community and did not have the right to dictate what Fishtown did or did not need. In this way, casino development became the event that exacerbated nascent tensions in the community over gentrification and community change. I argue that the divergent ways members of Fishtown framed their right to the city was based on different place-based histories and place identity, community needs and authenticity. Chapter five examines the framing of the right to the city in South Philadelphia and Chinatown. This chapter focuses on the different place-identities that led to the framing of opposition to the development of the Foxwoods Casino. The Foxwoods Casino was proposed for two communities, along the Delaware River waterfront in South Philadelphia and in Chinatown. Both of these communities rallied around the anti-casino position and fought to prevent the development of Foxwoods. Anti-casino residents in South Philadelphia framed their right to the city against casino development very similarly to newer residents of Fishtown. Residents who benefited from gentrification and lived in either gentrified or gentrifying communities tended toward an anti-casino position. This was the case in South Philadelphia where the casino was framed as a negative addition to the community and residents fought to prevent Foxwoods from being developed. In Chinatown, the anti-casino frames originated from an experience of perceived threat. The threat to Chinatown residents came from continual attempts by powerful actors to displace the community through new development. They argued that casino development was another in a long line of attempts to develop Chinatown out of existence. In addition, members of the Chinatown community argued that many Asian Americans are extremely susceptible to gambling addiction and the attempt to locate the casino in their community was a crass form of cultural exploitation. In both South Philadelphia and Chinatown, anti-casino residents framed their opposition from their place-based appraisals of community vulnerability. But the frames utilized by the two communities exemplified the differences between the two places and the people who lived there. South Philadelphia framed casino development as bad development unfit for the community, while Chinatown argued that a casino would contribute to both displacement and cultural exploitation. In this way the framing of the right to the city took on a desperate tone for anti-casino residents of Chinatown. The right to prevent a casino in Chinatown was about the right of survival for this ethnic enclave. Chapter six examines the role of social capital in the successful development of the SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown. In this chapter I review the work of Richard Florida who suggests that social capital, as exhibited by strong community ties, is a negative feature of many cities and communities. Florida argues that strong social capital perpetuates powerlessness and isolation in such places. As a result these places are unable to contribute to patterns of urban economic development, growth or change. I contest Florida's arguments regarding the inherent disadvantage of places with strong social capital and tight community bonds. Using Fishtown as an example, I argue that the strong community bonds were a powerful resource for long-time residents who supported SugarHouse. These people used their social capital ties with other long-time residents to generate support for the casino, challenge the credibility of anti-casino claims and negotiate with the casino the drafting of a Community Benefits Agreement. I argue that social capital was an important source of power for long-time residents of Fishtown.
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|Casino Development and the Right to the City: Conflict and Community Place-Making in Philadelphia
|Wray, Matt, 1964-
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