Suck it up, Sparks, you might like Lazy 8

So, my friends in Sparks, for a few minutes it looked like a majority of your City Council protected you from another nasty sprawling casino—complete with arcade, movie theater and restaurants—on the Pyramid Highway. Way to go, three of five city lawmakers (Judy Moss, John Mayer and Phil Salerno). Always standing up for the common man—shoulder-to-shoulder with the ever-populist John Ascuaga, owner of the Nugget and a Powerful Nevadan. The Nugget bankrolled those full-page ads and direct mailings that expressed the “voice of the people” in opposition to the proposed Lazy 8 casino in Spanish Springs.Too bad in voting the casino down, the council was set to renege on a binding contract. That’s why two of five council members (Mike Carrigan and Ron Schmitt) voted for the project. That’s why Harvey Whittemore, the Powerful Nevadan representing Lazy 8, is suing Sparks (that means you, taxpayers) for $100 million.

No worries. With a 2000 population of around 66,346 the tab per Sparks-ite came to a mere $1,500 or so. Friday the Sparks Council met—behind closed doors—to resolve the issue. When they emerged, the casino was ours. No matter how many Sparks residents were outraged.

I don’t blame you for not wanting a casino in your “backyard"—or more accurately, across the Pyramid highway from your backyard. In bankrolling the fight against the project, Ascuaga can’t be blamed for wanting to dominate the Sparks gambling market. Monopolies make free enterprise what it is today.

If I were a cultural anthropologist researching Nevada, I might be amazed at widespread ignorance about the amount of control exercised by power lords like Ascuaga and Whittemore. Odd, I’d say, crinkling my brow, how those who’ve abdicated their right to vote (by not voting) still believe they have a voice when it comes to managing growth.

I’m not objective. After living here for 13 years, I’ve adjusted to the absurdity of a place where gambling is encouraged as an economic driver and major provider of funds for schools. Most Nevadans enjoy not paying state income tax. Gambling makes that possible.

I live in east Sparks. Out my windows, I see bulldozers plowing desert on all sides. Builders use dynamite to modify inconvenient hills. When my house shakes from the explosions, I’m reminded that even in this languid housing market, Sparks still harbors the illusion of growth.

So does Sparks need a casino-slash-entertainment complex?

The anthropologist chuckles. Of course not. No community needs a casino. Casinos encourage poor spending habits and can exacerbate poverty and domestic violence and alcoholism and other addictive behavior.

But from the insider’s perspective, a casino might be a welcome addition to Spanish Springs. Jobs are created. More money goes to schools. I get a new place to eat and play.

On Friday, the Significant Republican and I went out. First, we drove to the new Pinocchio’s on Vista Boulevard where patrons spilled into the parking lot and the wait was 40 minutes. Murrieta’s the sequel, also on Vista, was similarly packed. So was the Vista Grille on Disc Drive. Western Village was jammed with guys cashing their checks and enjoying $1 drinks. At the Nugget, folks were lining up for yummy seafood pan roast at the Oyster Bar. Great Basin Brewing Company and Cantina Los Tres Hombres? That’s where we always go.

The SR and I ended up eating tasty pad thai and spring rolls at Isan Thai at Pyramid and McCarran. I’m guessing my neighbors might appreciate a few new eateries in the area.

Change isn’t all bad. Remember how we advocates for a downtown Reno park ("Green space not screen space!") all ended up loving the theater?

Just something to think about while driving over the Reno train trench.