Contrary to the old saying, desperate times do not always call for desperate measures. Certainly thats the case in Roanoke Rapids, where in 2005 town leaders made a monumentally misguided decision to build a $22 million theater hoping to draw visitors off I-95 and bring back a staggering economy in a town about 80 miles northeast of Raleigh that had relied on textiles for jobs.
Unfortunately those leaders also made a deal with the little-known brother of country music star Dolly Parton to perform at and run the theater, which called for a $1.5 million annual fee. While Randy Parton cant be blamed for knowing a good deal when he saw one, the towns leaders were precipitous in agreeing to it, falling under the spell of wishful thinking.
And now it seems their successors have caught the same urgency bug. Theyve decided to allow electronic gambling in one section of the theater complex alongside the interstate to try to do something anything to get some money coming in. It takes about $1.7 million a year to pay debt service and keep the place running, and its never done very well. Not surprisingly, not many buyers have lined up to take the theater over.
But gambling by any name in any form does little good for a community. There are the risks to families, very real, that breadwinners will blow the butter and egg money at the video parlor. Gambling addicts are at risk. The take from what town leaders have approved will be about $80,000 a year not much in a city with a $14.5 million annual budget.
And setting up a gambling parlor may put a label on the place that would be far more of a negative than town leaders anticipate.