Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On November 16th, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter signed legislation that re-zoned the Gallery area into a casino zone. This represented a major step forward for the development of the Foxwoods Casino in Chinatown and a major blow to casino opposition groups.
The casino proposal would put a slots house at the Gallery Shopping Mall, less than fifty feet from Chinatown homes. Since Foxwoods originally announced moving development of the casino from the Delaware River waterfront in September, Chinatown residents have ardently opposed the casino proposal.
At the forefront of the opposition is AAU, a community organization dedicated to supporting Philadelphia’s Asian American interests. AAU asserts that the casino would hurt local businesses and increase domestic violence, divorce, and child abuse rates. They view the proposal to relocate to Chinatown as an attempt to exploit Asian vulnerability to gambling. Gambling is accepted and encouraged in Asian culture, leading to Asians providing a disproportionate percentage of casino revenue.
AAU’s allegation of the casino’s predatory targeting of Asian Americans has resonated with Asian American Swarthmore students. Growing up in New York City, Toby Wu ’09 remembers firsthand the allure of Atlantic City to Asian-Americans. “Casinos advertised heavily in ethnic press, they also bring pop stars from Asia to give concerts at the casinos to attract Asian-American and Pacific-Islander clientÃ¨le” Wu states. Wu also recalls that “we may [have] paid $10 for the bus ticket, but we knew … we would get $25 in return, plus the occasional buffet admission, from the casino.”
The Swarthmore Asian Organization assisted the casino opposition by facilitating a panel about the casino proposal last month. Helen Gym and Debbie Wei of Asian Americans United, as well as Temple University students who were creating a new group Students Against the Gallery Casino, were invited to speak about their efforts to oppose the casino. SAO member Hansi Lo Wang ’09 states that SAO members also participated in the November 1st anti-casino rally in Chinatown, marching with over six hundred residents to town hall in protest of the casino proposal.
Commitment such as this has led to the continued fierce opposition to the casino’s development. A statement on the organization’s website vows that AAU “will continue to fight for what is morally right, for a democratic and inclusive process, and for public interest over private interest.”
AAU’s Helen Gym did not respond to Gazette requests for comment.