On Wednesday, the Council will be briefed by the Economic Development Department on a proposal to create an entertainment complex near the Convention Center in Downtown Dallas. You can read the briefing here: Council Briefing
The terms of the proposal have not been hammered out yet, but the tentative plan looks like this:
-The City owns Reunion Arena, but is losing over a million dollars a year on it. The arena’s total land area is about 360,000 sq. ft.
-The City owns half of the Convention Center’s Parking Lot E. Hunt Consolidated owns the other half, about 331,000 sq. ft.
-Lot E is where a company named Dallas City Limits is interested in creating an entertainment complex.
-The proposed deal would entail a land swap between Hunt Consolidated (Parking Lot E) and the City of Dallas (Reunion Arena). The City has received two conflicting appraisals on the properties, so we’re doing a third appraisal. At that point we’ll have more details about the possible land swap.
That’s part one of the deal. The second part of the deal proposes that the City sell Lot E to Dallas City Lights for fair market value to build the enterntainment complex.
As proposed, the entertainment complex would house retail shops, restaurants, and a horse racing track with “Video Lottery Terminals.” That’s a fancy way of saying slot machines.
I am supportive of the idea of consolidating the land at Lot E in order to create an entertainment center. I am also supportive of creating an entertainment center in our Downtown. HOWEVER, I am very troubled by the idea of allowing slot machines at the race track. Slot machines are highly addictive, prey on the poor, and in general create a seedy atmosphere that I don’t think is right for our Downtown.
Many cities that once permitted slot machines are now putting constraints on them or getting rid of them altogether. If our city becomes dependent on slot machine revenue, it would be nearly impossible to get rid of that form of gambling down the line. (The State Legislature would have to approve such slot machines before Dallas could proceed.)
I am less troubled by regulated horse racing if slot machines are excluded. However, race tracks without slot machines are in decline. Successful new racetracks, called “racinos,” incorporate slot machines and other forms of gambling into the mix. When these racinos are financially successful, it is due to the non-race gambling income, such as slot machines. So the question becomes, can our proposed race track stand alone, without slot machines, and still make money? If not, can Dallas City Limits put together an entertainment package that doesn’t include a race track or slot machines?