Two Things: Confusion near a casino restroom; parking problems and tax hikes
Happy Friday. Took long enough to get here
DANVILLE, Va. — A tall young man wearing a scraggly beard and a perplexed expression approached seconds after I walked out of a men’s room.
It seemed odd, but I was standing in a casino at 10:30 a.m. on a weekday morning, rolling with the flow seemed the way to go.
“Um, excuse me, sir,” the youngster said. “Do you work here? This is my first time here. I’m trying to figure out if I need a ticket for this.”
“This” was a bright, blinking one-armed bandit, one of dozens of slot machines placed in clumps on the floor of Caesar’s 40,000 square feet of gambling space in its recently opened “temporary” casino.
After tamping down a fleeting sense of faux outrage — Do I really look like a restroom attendant? — I had to laugh.
Because despite appearances, for a lot of reasons not least of which is that I’m notoriously cheap, Thursday’s visit was only my third trip inside a casino. The first two, more or less, were to act as a chaperone.
One was in the ‘80s in the Bahamas with my brother and the old man, who was having a very large time, and the second came last winter in Seminole, Fla. with my adult daughter, who also was enjoying herself immensely.
Thursday, though, I at least had a rudimentary understanding of the contraption since I’d just blown $20 in less than 6 minutes feeding a slot.
(I’m still a little raw about that and wondering how to slip that into an expense report.)
Anyhow, after showing the young man how to slide bills into the machine — if you’re unfamiliar, they operate like self-checkout lines in a grocery — place his bet and where to get a “ticket” showing his winnings/remaining money when he’d finished, I scribbled down a few observations about the new casino.
In no particular order, they include:
* Virginia has (or soon will have) four casinos in four cities near the state line. This is no accident. The Commonwealth has been lightening N.C. wallets for generations; it’s a straight line from Prohibition to the state-run-lottery to casino gaming to legal weed.
* Be warned about the vague, cloying odor of second-hand smoke. There are ashtrays everywhere, and despite excellent ventilation, it's noticeable.
* Go to an ATM off-site; the fees charged inside the tent are brutal - nearly 25 percent.
* Gaming is a serious industry. Caesar’s Virginia represents a $650 million investment, has created hundreds of jobs and is expected to bring more than $30 million annually in local tax revenue.
* The tent-like structure is temporary; a permanent casino complex with a hotel, restaurants, bars, convention space and a 2,500-seat concert hall is being built next door at break-neck speed.
And if a youngster approaches you outside a restroom, don’t flip.
Planning for parking
GREENSBORO — Every self-respecting city with a downtown it hypes — and spends money to boost — secretly hopes to have a parking issue.
Whether that’s a shortage of available on-street slots, not enough parking decks or, in the case of Winston-Salem, a conga line of denizens upset with price-gouging pay-to-play, high-tech private lots, a parking issue means that a lot of people — and their wallets — are venturing downtown.
Ergo, parking is, oddly enough, a sign of health.
To help sort its issues, Greensboro is undertaking surveys of visitors and business owners to come up with potential solutions. Surveys are online at the city’s website; results will compiled and considered for action by the autumn.
Tax increase proposed
WINSTON-SALEM — Not that it should come as a surprise, but city staff members charged with communications buried the lead about a tax hike in unveiling Winston-Salem’s proposed $605.7 million budget.
Electronic announcements first hyped planned raises for cops, firefighters and city employees and an increase in the minimum wage ($15.45/hour) in order to retain workers.
PR folks next mentioned that the proposed budget represents a 3.5% decrease over last year’s due to a drop in capital expenses.
After a breakdown of what could be spent for operations, debt service and capital improvements, the tax increase is mentioned down the near end: 2.5 cents, raising the city’s rate to 66.1 cents per $100 in property value.
And remember, that’ll be on top of Forsyth County’s property tax bill, too. A city resident will pay about $1.31 per $100 of property meaning that the owner of a $200,000 home will see combined tax bills of about $2,620.