If you’re lucky enough to be a Clevelander who doesn’t live in poverty, you probably never ride public transportation, so you probably never have a reason to visit the RTA’s website. But if you did visit the RTA’s website, you’d see that its homepage features six prominent links at center, five of which you might expect to find at the website of any major transit provider: 1) Timetables, maps and schedules; 2) important information like re-routes and other travel alerts; 3) a portal for purchasing fare cards and paying fines; 4) basic info on “how-to-ride” RTA, and 5) a Google trip planning function.
And then there’s the sixth link, as official as all the rest, which directs the user to information on how to get to and what to do when you run out of chips at the Horseshoe Casino.
Which makes for a grand total of one Cleveland location featured at the RTA’s homepage. Not the library. Not the hospital. Not the market. Not a museum. Not the ballpark, or any park. Just Dan Gilbert’s shiny new money trap for poor people and idiots, the Horseshoe Casino, “Cleveland’s newest entertainment destination.” Because otherwise how would folks find the casino right on Public Square, “the City’s transit hub for both trains and buses”? (Click image to enlarge.)
So if you were worried that Gilbert and Rock Gaming/Caesars weren’t doing well enough to get the word out to the folks who are most susceptible to gambling problems, you can rest easier knowing how much progress has been made toward normalizing casino gaming and ensuring that the primary means of transportation for these folks works as much like a funnel to the Horseshoe as possible.
But if you were worried that Biff got a hold of Doc Brown’s time machine and took the Sports Almanac back to 1955, I don’t really know what to tell you.
I can tell you, though, what makes this all a lot worse. Which is that Gilbert, Rock Gaming/Caesars, and the government and quasi-governmental officials responsible for the RTA page looking like this are brazen enough to have taken the stance that this RTA/Horseshoe partnership doesn’t constitute an advertisement. Which is the only explanation for why the RTA’s web page doesn’t contain any reference to the “problem gambling hotline number” that Ohio law requires each casino advertisement to “clearly and conspicuously state.”
Maybe the Horseshoe didn’t pay directly for this placement (doubtful), but there’s no way there’s not a quid pro quo here. Could it be argued that this really isn’t an advertisement? Maybe? But no non-predatory enterprise would ever try to split hairs like this to avoid including a reference to the problem gambling hotline number.
Which is what the most expensive election campaign in Ohio history gets you. Cleveland’s favorite sports owner. If only Gilbert owned all the teams. Go Cavs, and go go go to the Horseshoe Casino.