Rupture, Reformation, and Redemption: Urban Casinos and the Construction of the Social Good

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Thomas CORCORAN, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA
Recent scholarship on taxation has offered novel ways of conceptualizing how revisions to state fiscal policy shape patterns of public trust and social cleavage (see Martin, Mehrotra, and Prasad 2009). When applying this thesis to institutions including work and leisure, or the family and public health, we can anticipate changes in symbolic relationships among and between groups, in addition to the formation of new political coalitions and ties. This paper locates the role of urban casinos in restructuring fiscal policy towards change in social, economic, and cultural institutions among mid-sized deindustrialized cities in the United States. As many mid-sized cities continue to stagnate, often stigmatized from outsiders for disproportionate levels of unemployment and urban violence, local policymakers and residents are faced with the challenge of adopting economic and cultural strategies to create conditions for inclusive urban citizenship. By focusing on a single case—a northeastern city with a population of roughly 160,000 residents—I examine how the construction of a downtown casino brings together a network of actors working to create living wage jobs, enhance initiatives for community health, and promote cultural amenities for residents and visitors alike. Whereas the casino corporation has promised the community a unique partnership in sponsoring many of these initiatives across the city, stakeholders involved in collaborative projects are confronted with overcoming strong ties to neighborhood and loyalties to community-based organizations. Drawing on narratives from in–depth interviews conducted with residents, community leaders, small business owners, artists, commercial developers, labor unions, and social justice advocates, I demonstrate how these groups traverse the fuzziness of boundaries between cooperation and competition. Ultimately, this empirical case intends to contribute to literature on the influence of corporate governance in processes of urban redevelopment, while assessing the possibilities for social agents operating in liminal spaces to negotiate positive change.