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March 20, 2009

We Can Agree - United Against Casinos

by at 10:37 am.

“What could James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the League of Women Voters possibly have in common?” writes Frederick Clarkson at ReligionDispatches. And maybe politics makes strange bedfellows - or maybe, it’s that groups that can get quite heated in the debates about social policy and taxes can occasionally bridge that gap to work on an issue the crosses those boundaries.

The article highlights that coalition in Mass and has many other good tidbits - all important to remember as it appears that casinos and slots in some form will at least be proposed in the legislature once again, putting that coalition to the test a second time.

A lot of you probably remember from past casino posts why I’ve come out vehemently against casinos - so probably repeating them will bore you. But this article goes into stark details and I encourage you to read it. Some highlights:

“Predatory gambling,” Bernal says, “is the practice of using gambling to prey on human weaknesses for profit.” He points to the highly addictive nature of contemporary electronic slot machines and video poker as the primary source of the profound “social costs” related to gambling addition. “Slots are,” he says, “designed to make you play as fast as possible for as long as possible,” and in gambling industry parlance, “to play to extinction.”
[…]
The addictive nature of the electronic slots and their role as the main revenue stream of the gambling industry is not widely understood. Industry data show that 70-80% of the revenue of casinos come from these machines, and investors are not very interested in casinos without slots.
[…]
In a powerful video recently posted by Casino Free Mass in anticipation of the next round of debate over introducing casinos in the state, a prominent medical researcher compares a multicolored brain scan of a cocaine addict about to receive a fix and that of someone sitting at a slot machine. The same sections of each brain light up in ways that are indistinguishable.

“I think it’s cowardly,” said Laura Everett. ”We are going to sacrifice our citizens. We know that there are people in Massachusetts who will become addicted. What Patrick is saying is ‘you are expendable.’”

There are so many reasons to reject state-sponsored addiction (and yes, I have my issues with the lottery and other such state-as-pushers revenue), but the best reason is that, once you place a casino somewhere, you will develop addicts that otherwise would not have become addicted. There are practical questions, yes, such as how much these unfortunate souls would cost the state because of increased need for law enforcement, courts, and treatment - and how much net gain of revenue you would have from the casino with this in mind - but the true argument against casinos and slots (of any kind) is moral. A question of what, as the article states, “do we want our government to do”?

13 Responses to “We Can Agree - United Against Casinos”

  1. Marianne Says:

    Huh! I never thought I’d agree with James Dobson about anything…

  2. Art is Fun Says:

    My spouse and I have spoken to our Rep and Senator in support of casinos. We enjoy playing the slots and table games. We take to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun several times a year with 3 or 4 couples at a time and would be much happier to stay in Mass. I respect your opinion and your reasons but we chose to disagree. Just my opinion.

  3. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    State lottery revenue $4.7 Billion last fiscal year according to an article in the Boston Globe on March 4, 2009 in which State Treasurer Tim Cahill addressed the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

    According to the lottery website, 23 percent, or $1.087 Billion goes to local aid.

    So how is this not already state sponsored, owned and operated, gambling?

    People who are morally opposed to gambling need to focus their efforts on the elimination state sponsored, owned and operated gambling first (say elimination of the lottery).

    Of course there is that little item of where to replace over $1 Billion dollars a years to cities and towns! Don’t worry, we’ll just up the gas tax again!

    Please

  4. Ryan Adams Says:

    That argument doesn’t fly, Eleanor. A scratch ticket and slot machine are vastly different things. Slot machines are significantly more addictive. They literally *double* the rate of addiction within 50 miles of an area.

    A better comparison is to drugs. There are certain drugs that we allow and certain, more dangerous drugs that we ban. Gambling isn’t illegal in Massachusetts, but the most addictive type of gambling - slot machines - is. Cigarettes aren’t illegal in in Massachusetts and we’ve decriminalized pot, but heroin is illegal. There are even some forms of alcohol that this country has banned.

    This is the nature of policy: it’s not black and white. Things have to be studied and looked into at a practical level. It’s very easy to say that because we allow some forms of gambling, we should allow all - but the truth is some forms of gambling are far more addictive and dangerous than others, and therefore the most addictive forms should be banned.

    Lastly, I find it ironic that you’d tout the numbers the state lottery brings in. If you looked at slots from a policy perspective and cared about state lotto revenue, you’d be strongly opposed. The proposed tax on casinos/parlors would be 27%, 73% going to the corporate vacuum (ie its not staying in the local economy, where it would help us). The state lottery goes almost entirely back to the state. If even 10% of our state lottery revenue numbers are eaten, that means $470 million is stripped from the lottery funds. Cahill’s rosy figures suggests the state will see around $250 million in revenue from his parlor plan — and even the most ardent supporters (like Barrow at UMASS Dartmouth), say his numbers are wildly off the mark. So, even the wackiest, rosiest numbers suggest Massachusetts will actually be losing nearly $250 million a year in revenue. This is why Cahill also proposed privatizing the state lottery! The fact is he *knows* we’ll lose money.

    What’s the longterm result? The state would just approve more and more parlors and casinos. Once you allow those beasts in the state, they own you.

    Why would Cahill support this clearly bad policy? Well, I’d suggest the fact that he’s received more campaign contributions from the slot industry than *any other politician* still elected to this state is telling.

  5. the "conservative" Says:

    Ryan, I agree with your summary of the state having minimum gain with the addition of slots, and has much to lose with the addictive behavior of most gamblers.Granted, all gamblers do not have addictive behavior however, the masses that gamble seem to have to do it,day in and day out, and that will have, adverse conditions for the state in a absolute horrible econimic climate that we’re in.
    Think about it,A recipient gets their unemployment check for the week, is totally bored on any given day, cashes it at the slot parlor, and proceeds to lose his funds for the week,therefore, giving away his rent, utility, or rent money, for an afternoon out, and as you said who gets 73% of the money? some gaming company, and the state’s constituents, get detiorating neighborhoods, families, and too many adverse conditions that come with more addictive behavior

  6. -b Says:

    I’m on the same page as “Art is Fun” with this one. I drive out of state a couple of times a year to have a nice night out with my wife - usually dropping several hundred dollars. I’d much rather save the commute and see some of the money I spent stay local.

  7. Lynne Says:

    There’s what you believe in anecdotes, -b, and the facts. The facts show that at a minimum, the state doesn’t really make out ahead in this game (pun intended). And the bad effects are really bad - economically, and sociologically. I have not seen ONE proposal that outlines the costs correctly, and all the proposals appear really rosy. Especially given the financial straights that nearly all the big gambling conglomerates are in right now. It’s not a panacea for revenues for the state, and the destruction wrought by the bringing of such a facility in state would not be worth it.

    But you can ask Atlantic City about that.

  8. ArtisFun Says:

    Atlantic City today supports your argument but is a bad comparison.

    Atlantic City Casinos came into being when the city government was under the control of the Philly mob under Angelo Bruno. The casinos were being run by organized crime, they controlled everything from the counting rooms to linen supply to trash removal. Bruno was followed by Nicodemo Scarfo who was ten times worse than Bruno. These people are the main reason Atlantic City is the city it is today. A fairer comparison is Connecticut where the Casinos are run in a more businesslike atmosphere.

    I agree gambling has many many pitfalls but I personally get frustrated when we’re told we can’t gamble because someone else will spend their paycheck or I can’t own a gun because someone left his or hers out where a ten year old got to it or you have to wear a helmet on your motorcycle because some 18 yr old with an immortality complex runs himself into a concrete bridge support at 100 MPH on his way to the beach or that so many of my tax dollars are spent to take care of people who don’t want to work (read BUMS) at the expense of the really needy ( disabled, elderly, working poor etc.) who needy our help and don’t get it because there isn’t any left for them.

    Forgive the rant but once I started I couldn’t stop.

  9. Lynne Says:

    Well, then, move to a place with no rules. Frankly, I’m pretty shocked you’re outraged over helmet laws. You know, when YOU sustain a major injury that was much worse due to no helmet, MY health care rates go up to make up for it. So the fewer cases of severe trauma from motorcycle accidents, the better the COMMON good, because way or the other, we all pay.

    This is the same thing as casinos, which, by the way, are in decline everywhere, not just in AC - even Vegas is coping with severe problems due to, not just a bad economy where people are in dire straight, but every sort of increase in crime you can think of. Lucky for them, a good amount of the money they make from casinos is from out of state - people head to Vegas, then leave. But if you think a resort casino in MA is going to be like that, you got another think coming. There’s too many other places for people to gamble for any place like MA (or RI, or CT, or NH, etc) to become serious contenders for out of state travel for gambling. There is only *one* Vegas.

    If you love gambling, there’s plenty of opportunity elsewhere. NO one is saying you shouldn’t. But as a plan for raising revenue and economic prosperity in MA, resort casinos fail every time, and they are failing in regards to these measures in plenty of other states too. If you wanna be libertarian about it, why do *I* have to subsidize *your* right to gamble? That’s what would happen, you know. Our tax dollars have to clean up the mess (via courts, police, addiction services) of the poor blokes who fall into the addiction pits (taking their families with them) just so *you* can go play slots a couple nights a month? Give me a break.

    Nothing we do in life doesn’t affect others. Whether it’s wearing a helmet on a motorcycle, or allowing gambling, or drugs, or alcohol, or how we drive a car - we affect the people around us, we each are a cost to society, and it’s time we grew up and faced that fact, and decided to make sure we make the right decisions that are in the best interest of everyone. It’s *not* in your best interest to watch a neighborhood deteriorate and for crime rates to go up and for people, your neighbors, who might otherwise never become gambling addicts, lose their homes and their lives. It helps no one. Not even you, and your instant-gratification me-me-me stand on life.

  10. ArtisFun Says:

    Your advice is right on point, for the last two years our family goal is to leave the state.
    and before you tell me good riddance we don’t need you, I’d like to defend myself I was born here raised my family here, gladly my paid taxes while my children ( 4 ) went to private schools, I’ve served on local volunteer boards, still do, while my spouse has been recognized twice one state and once local for work with the sick and disabled, I started a business 25 years ago, paid taxes on that, I have two pieces of income property that have been occupied by Hispanic and Cambodian tennants ( good hardworking people may I add ) for the last 4-5 years. In 25 years of adulthood I have never called the police or fire dept. Lynne, my family has not exactly been a drain on the community. I slightly resent your “and your instant-gratification me-me-me stand on life” comment but after reading many of your posts I was not surprised that this would be your opinion. “Well, then, move to a place with no rules” I hope to be able to relocate in 12 months,I haven’t found a place with no rules and I don’t want to. What I have found is a place where hard work and community are respected and appreciated and shared. Since your just starting out I hope my replacement is more to your liking.

    There is no need to post this if you don’t want to. I was just replying to your post.

  11. -b Says:

    I have not looked at the facts on this.

    But what I do see is that every time I head to Foxwoods is that the place is bigger than it was the last time. Something tells me they wouldn’t be expanding if they weren’t making lots of money.

    I also see that there is a bus that leaves from Lowell every day to head to Connecticut.

  12. Lynne Says:

    Well, that’s great and all…but you totally failed to get my basic point. We are all interconnected, and your lack of a helmet (for instance) affects the greater good. Taken to its ultimate end, your philosophy on leave-me-alone would have us lose all laws pertaining to traffic and speeding (after all who should tell YOU how to drive??) or penalties for not educating your kids (who should tell you if YOUR kids should read or write) or anything else. Or the fact that your desire to go gambling in the next town effects the local economy, the state’s revenues (which might go up but also go down as it pays for courts, police, crime issues, broken families, gambling addiction). You want to pretend it’s all about some libertarian desire to be left alone, but that’s my point - there IS no left alone. Therefore, we have a right to decide what is for the common good and how we want to promote it.

    Look, we can debate on where to draw the line, but you seem to want us to believe there should be no line, or the line should be down so far that it means nothing. Not a world I want to live in, thanks.

    -b - that’s my point! no one has good numbers on this, the least of which are the ones coming from the proponents. I honestly had no opinion on Patrick’s original proposal until I really started looking into it, and realized, wow, there’s a lot of stuff that it didn’t account for.

    Reversing one bus or three or even ten a day going from MA to CT, or a doubling of the local gambling addiction rate within 50 miles of a casino, which gets us more money/costs more? The problem is, no one wants to talk about the second half of it, but they all want to talk about that revenue stream. The increase in gambling activity in the vicinity of a casino, which comes largely from the local population, also comes out of people’s discretionary income, which is to say, people stop spending their money on other forms of entertainment/shopping and start spending it at the casino. Yes, some of the revenues go to the state in the form of taxes, but most of it goes right out of state, except maybe the local employees who *might* spend it locally (if they don’t spend a lot at the casino themselves). Which means, who knows the net gain/loss of a) revenue to the state and b) local economic activity generated? That’s my problem with the rosy scenarios of casino proponents - they don’t state any of that in their projections.

  13. -b Says:

    Well said Lynne.

    As is the case with so many issues, we’re on totally different pages.

    I’d still be ok with a Riverboat casino on the Merrimack - as long as they build some nicer bridges.

    I’d also be ok with no law on the books for kids wearing helmets.

    The Store 24 (or whatever it’s called these days) down the road from my house has people coming in and out all day dropping their losing scratch tickets all over the parking lot. What’s the difference if they drop their money into slots on at a casino? Seems like it will be a lot of the same people to me. If these people/victims aren’t losing their money at the casino, it will just be some place else… There’s plenty of bars and bookies around this city.

    I have no facts to back any of these thoughts up, just my two cents.

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