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No politics at the airport, please

Johnson City Press • Jan 11, 2019 at 7:00 AM

The Tri-Cities Airport Authority was right to decline support for the proposed Bristol, Virginia, casino project on Monday.

The proposal would convert the vacant Bristol Mall into a gambling establishment, which would require a change in Virginia law to allow a local option vote on the issue.

The last thing the Authority needs is to insert itself into a treacherous political debate that would sully its role as a nonpartisan entity serving the interests of everyone in the Tri-Cities area. The airport is special to the region in that it was among the first components in common central economic development, and it remains key in the effort today, especially given the potential of the aerospace park.

Bristol Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Beth Rhinehart had asked the Authority for a letter of support, as she and other leaders hope such a project would lead to a tourism boon.

Economic potential aside, a legalized gambling destination comes with a set of complex concerns — legal, regulatory, societal and public-health oriented — that would be new to the region. It will be for the people of Bristol, the state of Virginia and their leaders to shake out whether the pros outweigh the cons.

We expect many a study, forum, hearing and vote long before anyone pulls the first slot machine handle in Bristol … if ever.

The Airport Authority can sit this one out.

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