by Judy Hodgson, Editor and Publisher
When I was in high school in the early 1960s I had several friends who were on the debate team. One of the contests, as I recall, tested their skill at presenting a convincing argument on the spur of the moment. They were simply handed a card listing a topic, and they were expected to take a side, pro or con, and argue like hell. (Maybe they grew up to be lawyers.)
I found myself thinking about those debates after reading staff writer Jim Hight's cover story on the casino-in-progress at Big Lagoon. I could argue both sides with equal passion. (I expect to hear from readers! We'll print as many letters as we can next month.)
Why did we choose this particular development as the cover story when there are already two other bingo/casinos in operation, another that just broke ground and a fourth in the thought stage -- all here in Humboldt County?
Because of the size and scope of the Big Lagoon project, for one thing. And the location, for another.
What is underway is a full-blown Las Vegas-style casino with slots, black jack and other games, a full-service bar and restaurant, and live entertainment on a spectacular waterfront setting. What is planned is a resort complex with two hotels, an RV park and an 18-hole golf course. All this on the point of land jutting into the south end of Big Lagoon just six miles north of its sister casino, Cher-Ae Heights.
One might be offended by gambling in general, contributing to the delinquency of adults, so to speak. But there's the Libertarian in me that says we really shouldn't judge what constitutes fun for someone else unless it breaks the law or harms another person.
Gambling, for many, is fun. And it is everywhere -- church bingo games, raffle tickets for all sorts of good causes as well as dubious ones, not to mention lottery-ticket mania every Wednesday and Saturday at gasoline stations and convenience stores.
What I suspect will offend people more is the location, especially those neighbors who live there year-round or vacation there regularly. And the many others who visit Big Lagoon to sail, canoe, fish or walk the beach. (I left jet-skiers off the list temporarily due to the unresolved speed limit issue.)
Rancheria officials should be commended for their willingness to discuss environmental-impact questions. The rancheria is a sovereign nation, our neighbor. They can -- and still could -- tell the rest of us to go fly a kite. But in this month's story, they spoke strongly about their commitment to design and construct adequate water and sewage disposal systems, and they released the names of their engineers who have reputations to protect.
Many environmental questions remain. Was there wet-weather testing? What will be the capacity? What about traffic flow and other impacts?
If these and other questions are answered and this project is built as planned, Reno and Las Vegas may see a dent in their business. Maybe it's too bad the rancheria didn't end up with a different piece of prime waterfront property -- say, the site of the failed Halvorsen hotel project in Eureka?