Tiverton Casino: Live by the Government, Die by the Government


Marcia Pobzeznik’s Newport Daily News article describing the history of the land that will soon be Rhode Island government’s latest gambling hall is worth a read even outside of the area for the lessons it illustrates.  Back in 1959, resident Harold Cory began buying up the land around his property for no particular reason.  When he passed, his children sought to sell it, but…

There were proposals over the years, including one for a high-end apartment complex, but she said the town’s Planning Board at the time had concerns about the number of children it would bring in and the proposal died. Other potential buyers looked into the property, too, but nothing concrete came of the proposals.

So the folks on a board that the town had decided to empower to tell other residents what they can and can’t do with their own land blocked housing for relatively wealthy commuters.  Then:

The property had been in the Farm, Forest and Open Space Act program since 2002, so its value and resultant tax rate was much lower than it would have been otherwise.

Perhaps because the owners couldn’t sell it, they turned to another government group that put the land in an arbitrary category that made it less valuable to own and less useful as property.  And that only got worse:

“Because of the wetlands it will be a tight squeeze,” Rousseau said of the 100,000-square-foot casino, two-story parking garage and 84-room hotel.

Meddling government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels have prevented the market from finding the best use of this piece of land.  Indeed, the suppression of the value ensured that it wasn’t even a worthwhile investment to buy and hold.  Indeed, a sufficiently interested economist could probably calculate not only the loss of value on our own property right now, but also the cost of the risk that the value of property bought right now will lose value because of future restrictions that haven’t even been imagined, yet.

So, here we are: A government casino and hotel has become the highest use for that land.  Good job everyone.  Maybe additional land in the area can be earmarked for government marijuana greenhouses and brothels.

The bottom line is that unless you, personally, are willing to buy up land, you can’t stop the future.  You can only make sure that it’s forced on you by even more powerful, less congenial forces.