Letter to the Editor

Guest Editorial

Friday, July 30, 2004

Protect Branson's image

The television ads touting a riverboat casino in Rockaway Beach are a well-done, slickly produced example of the art of propaganda. Why, these plain-speaking regular folks just want to build a day care center on a riverboat after that durn guvment stole away their livelihood by building a dam.

The truth, of course, is far more complex. What Amendment 1 actually does is cram gambling into a corner of the state that has steadfastly opposed it. It is an attempt by a community that has failed to adapt to change to overcome its mistakes at the expense of those around them. Its promises are a fraud.

We urge voters to reject Amendment 1.

Gambling -- a word those television ads never mention -- is a false savior. It makes its owners rich, often at the expense of those who can't afford it. ...

In any community, gambling is a risky proposition. But an additional factor makes it riskier in Taney County. Branson has built its tourism industry, one that pumps better than $40 million in sales tax into Missouri's treasury, on a family-friendly image.

Casino supporters say gambling would bring more tourists. But how many others would it drive away? A casino would be offensive to Taney County's most loyal audience. Do we, as a state, want to roll the dice on this vibrant sector of the state's economy? ...

We are sympathetic to Rockaway Beach's condition. Once, it was the vacation spot of the Ozarks. Table Rock Dam was built, and Lake Taneycomo turned cold. The crowds drifted away.

Taneycomo also turned cold at Branson, but that town has not withered.

The difference? Branson has consistently reinvented itself, adapting to changing times while remaining true to its core values. First, fishing resorts cropped up to take advantage of the cold water and the introduction of trout. Then came homegrown country music shows, which laid the foundation for the national acts that came years later. Even after achieving the status of a national destination, Branson has recognized the need to change to attract new visitors.

Why did one town thrive and the other didn't? Leadership. Vision. An understanding of what makes the Ozarks unique and how to build on that.

Branson worked hard to become what it is. That ought to be protected by rejecting the introduction of gambling into southwest Missouri. Voters should say no to Rockaway Beach's get-rich-quick scheme and the risk it poses to a highly successful tourism industry.

--Springfield News-Leader