Entertainment Galas Sponsored by Largo Raise Expense Question
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - A couple of months ago, at a City Commission meeting, came the revelation that the City of Largo was hauling people by bus to a gambling casino in Tampa.
It is still going on. And there are many more activities as well, including city-sponsored trips to the dog track in St. Petersburg and to a variety of restaurants and other centers of entertainment.
Just recently, it was pointed out editorially that, given the shortage of revenue and ongoing expenses in the various municipalities and county, tax increases might be inevitable.
In Largo, one astute observer pointed out that perhaps Largo could cut down on its commitment to taxpayer paid entertainment.
The city even puts out a publication - for which it solicits paid advertising, in competition with private enterprise - listing the vast panoply of entertainment journeys and venues.
The current May-June 16-page edition of the "Largo Lantern," the city's publication, lists a variety of entertainments.
One, of course, is the trips to the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. A trip was scheduled May 11 and others are set for May 25, June 8 and June 22. The excursion is listed from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The listed cost for the foray is $15 for residents and $18 for non-residents. An additional enticement promises $15 worth of gambling coupons and $5 for food or merchandise. Presumably these come-ons are financed by the casino.
A similar excursion sponsored by Palm Hill for residents of that mobile home park lists a cost of $30, double what the city offers.
"I wonder if the city is subsidizing the difference, and altogether how much of taxpayer money is going to this," one veteran observer said. "It looks like the city is advertising these places and then delivering the customers."
"Among the costs," the observer pointed out, "is the cost of the vehicle or vehicles being used, the driver or drivers who are tied up all day and possible liability problems for the city."
In the spiel for the casino trip, the publication promotes gambling heavily in a blatant promotion - "Whether you like to play blackjack, poker, Texas holdem' or slots are your game, the Hard Rock Casino has it all."
That viewpoint might not sit so comfortably with those taxpayers in Largo who oppose gambling or who have religious compunctions against it. Therefore, how much taxpayer money is involved is critical.
Another excursion is the one scheduled June 2 to Derby Lanes, the St. Petersburg dog track, the clubhouse of which offers gambling in a variety of ways including off-track betting at every horse track in the country.
The Derby Lanes outing runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is promoted in the "Lantern" in this way - "Get ready to cheer the puppies on as we travel to historic Derby Lanes in St. Petersburg. You can dine at multiple locations throughout the Derby Lanes including the newly reopened Derby Club buffet."
Eating out seems to be a consistent theme advertised.
Something called Yoders in Sarasota is featured with a trip there scheduled June 30 for $13 and $16, residents and non-residents, respectively. Another eating adventure was held last Friday at Skyway Jacks in St. Petersburg at a cost of $8 and $11.
Other outings are scheduled to baseball games at Tropicana Field and Showplace in Hudson, where theatrical productions are performed.
Trips to Rays games were scheduled two days ago and again on June 24, July 29 and August 5. The package would cost $80 and $86 or individual trips at $25 and $29.
The trip to Hudson up in Pasco County was held last Sunday and cost $62 for residents and $68 for non-residents.
A "column" called "Eileen's Two Cents Worth" whoops up the packed schedule of entertainment with these words -
"Our trips are still going all summer long. Sign up for excursions you would interested in. If you have some special destination that you would like to see, just let us know. We are always interested in finding new things to see and do."
Apparently there is plenty of entertainment money in Largo to find "new things to see and do."
The writer is presumably Eileen Crowell who is listed in the "Lantern" along with seven other individuals who are apparently on the Community Center staff.
The publication even lists the cost of advertising rates ranging up to $525 for a full page.
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