So I climbed 10 flights of dimly lit stairs until I finally found the door.
“Ted Trowel Investigations” it said.
Before I could reach for the knob, I heard a gravely grunt. “Who’s there?”
I’m that columnist from The Gazette, I said.
“No kidding? I was just laughing about that this morning. Come in.”
Uh, thanks. I might have a case for you.
“Well, don’t just stand there like a dumpy hack, give me the goods,” Trowel said, pouring two shots of very cheap bourbon. “Drink?”
Sure, I said, slamming it down with a wince.
There’s some folks here in town who are trying to get a gambling referendum passed so they can build a casino. It would be a good-sized joint, 1,000 slots, 25 table games, $80 million in revenues, $30 million in state and local taxes, 362 jobs, $2.4 million for charities. The thing is, I don’t know where they’re going to build it. I thought you might be of some help, Mr. Trowel.
“So why don’t you just ask them?”
I have. They say they haven’t selected a site yet. It’s tougher, they say, to work out a deal when you don’t know if the referendum will pass. Too much uncertainty. Besides, finding and fully evaluating a site costs a load of money, they say, money they’d be out if it doesn’t pass. They’re going to start actively looking for a site, but they probably won’t be done before we vote on March 5.
“So you don’t believe them? You think they’re hiding something?” Trowel said, puffing at an electronic cigarette. A cloud of water vapor floated toward a lazily spinning ceiling fan.
I believe them. I have no reason not to. Still, I’m curious. Real curious.
“Good thing you’re not the cat. Do you know anything? Got any clues?”
Well, the investors say it needs to be built within eyesight of Interstate 380, within about 1,500 feet or so on either side, somewhere between Boyson Road and U.S. Highway 30. It’s got to be in a commercial area, not residential, on six to 10 acres of land. One of the backers mentioned the possibility of “ancillary” benefits from the project, maybe flood protection. So that would suggest they might be pondering possibilities near the river. They say maybe, but maybe not.
Trowel was quiet a moment. He poured two more shots. And was quiet some more. “I’ve got a theory,” he said, opening the window shade.
“See over there? I’ve been watching them build that convention complex and refurbish that hotel for months on end. The city’s sinking a ton of dough into the thing. As I see it, that hotel’s gonna need plenty of guests to keep the whole works from treading red ink. And that casino is gonna need a place nearby where gamblers can rest their weary heads after a long day of rolling dice, pulling slot arms and eating shrimp. People going to conventions might also like gambling, or shrimp.
“So if I were building a casino, I’d put it within a stone’s throw of that.”
Sure, you can speculate all you want, Mr. Trowel. But I need more than theories. And besides, building it downtown might alienate voters who think the hotel/convention complex is a taxpayer-funded boondoggle.
“So, folks who think it’s a boondoggle would vote against something that might help reduce the risk of it actually being a boondoggle? That doesn’t add up.”
Well, maybe some people are just determined to be right.
“Not your bosses, apparently. Drink?”