Saturday, August 06, 2005

38: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

The great nineteenth century British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This should come as no surprise to one John Brabender, the supposed “mouthpiece” of the Gettysburg Casino and Spa venture. The Spa is backed by a band of investors called Chance Enterprises, all of whom are from out of town except local profiteer David LeVan, and some of whom have some connections to the project that raise questions of ethics and conflict of interest. Brabender, of a high-powered conservative Pittsburg lobbying law firm, announced a telephone poll of 300 households in the Gettysburg area that was “highly favorable” to the casino project to one newspaper. Then he announced the same poll to another newspaper, but this time it was 600 homes.

Not content to leave things on that level of understanding, Brabender, while denouncing a street poll conducted by the No Casino Gettysburg group that showed 54% of tourists would not return to Gettysburg if a casino is built here as planned, refused to show the raw data of his poll to the news media. In fact, he refused to disclose any details about the “poll”. As the ads on TV say, “But wait! There’s more!”

The Gettysburg Times reports in a front page lead article from their Friday, August 5, 2005 edition that:
Representatives of Chance Enterprises meanwhile, announced the pending release of a recent economic impact study of the financial effects of a slots operation upon Adams County.

John Brabender, a media consultant for Chance Enterprises, said Wednesday the study results will be released this month, but he would not specify a date. Brabender said the study was done by a third party commissioned by Chance Enterprises, but he could not identify it. He did not return a call for additional comment on Thursday.
This blogger is overwhelmed at the depth of understanding and knowledge, the veritable fingertip command of the facts displayed by the casino organization’s public relations man, John Brabender. With people like Brabender on your team who needs No Casino Gettysburg!?

The article continued:

Chance Enterprises officials have said the proposed Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spa would create 1,000 local jobs, generate $10 million annually for local municipalities and boost tourism in the county.

As was demonstrated in the previous essay #37: “Statistics”, Adams county has about 2,000 people unemployed per the June figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. That’s about 3.7% of the workforce, a figure that is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Adams County does not need those jobs. As far as the money goes, several hundred thousand dollars will go to Straban Township, and the bulk of the remaining $10 million will be spread over York, Cumberland and Franklin Counties, with a little bit coming to Adams County. Straban Township has already gone to a Dauphin County representative (knowing the local State Assemblyman Steve Maitland opposes the casino project) and asked his help in getting the legislation changed to up their cut to $1 million so they can run their own police force!

Ummm, if the casino is such a family friendly, harmonious place, why does Straban think they need a million dollar police force so badly?

The same Gettysburg Times article also states,

The proposal entails construction of a hotel, several restaurants, a spa and a slots parlor initially containing 3,000 slot machines. Brabender also said Wednesday – the day officials released an early design sketch of the facility – that its being designed to accommodate future, unspecified expansions.

Good heavens! 3,000 slots! The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas has 970 slots. Caesar’s Palace has 1,900 slots, as does the Mirage, the MGM Grand has 2,500 slots, while Treasure Island has almost 2,300. And the Gettysburg Casino will open with 3,000 -- with an eye on expansion?! How very pretentious!

Earlier this week, the casino folks, trying desperately to keep their heads above water in the public relations fight in which they find themselves, released an artist’s rendering of the proposed casino. The first question that should pop into everyone’s mind when they first see the image is “Where are they going to get all that water shown lapping at a shoreline next to the casino?” The second should be, “How many floors does that hotel have?”

What has been totally missing from this whole affair is a single positive valid reason to put the casino here in the Gettysburg area. Not one.

Switching gears a bit -- an independent polling agent conducted a poll which showed stronger support for the casino than one would have expected. Also, there was surprisingly high local support for the questionable Act 72 which would have used gambling money to reduce real estate school taxes. Gettysburg Area School board turned it down on the principle of not wanting gambling tainted money.

Susquehanna Polling and Research, which bills itself as "Harrisburg’s only survey research and political polling firm", presented their data to eight questions asked of 300 persons in a phone poll of Gettysburg area residents.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of areas that generated questions about the results. First, and foremost, SPR touted the surprising support for Act 72 in their press release announcing the poll. However, when one looks at the age breakdown, one can see that 76% (238 of 300 respondents) were over 45 years of age, the group most likely to be concerned and favorable to any property tax relief. Half of those (38% of the total polled) were over 60, and likely to be on a fixed income, or close to that age when one begins living on a fixed income. In other words, the results of that question are heavily skewed..

Second, the question was asked, if a respondent supported or opposed a casino being built. The breakdown was 31% (93) support, 54% (161) opposed, with 15% (45) undecided. The next question then asks why supporters feel that way, and they got responses from 106 respondents. Now, this blogger is no math wizard, but wouldn’t you want to know which respondents recorded answers about why they supported the casino? Were all asked? If so, then the answers to the previous questions should be revised upwards, as it would tend to indicate that if 106 supported the casino, then 194 would be opposed to it. If only the supporters of the casino were asked this question, then, again, the numbers seem to be off by a substantial amount.

Third, the opposed were asked why they were in opposition, and 201 responded. Again, the numbers simply do not match with the answers to previous questions. (43% of those asked responded that the casino was wrong for moral/social problems including crime drugs and prostitution, on this question!)

The next question asked if the casino would take away from the historical significance of the region. 11% said it would add to the significance. 53% thought it would take away from the historical significance, and 35% were undecided? Does that number of undecided seem high?

Besides the age over-balance on the older side, there was a significant difference between Republicans (57%), who would tend to favor the casino project, and the Democrats (34%), who would tend to be opposed. This probably is reflective of the “Red County” nature of Adams County. At least they got the male-female ratio correct: 150 each. Thankfully, there was not an “other” option to that question!

This blogger feels the poll was probably in the ballpark, but the numbers simply do not always add up.

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