Left In Lowell

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September 15, 2011

The Disappointment I Feel

by at 9:51 am.

Yesterday, the lower body of the Massachusetts state legislature passed the casino gambling bill. Yesterday, we took a step closer to allowing predatory gambling in our state, affecting thousands of families that otherwise would have not been torn apart by gambling addiction. It is a well-documented outcome that within a 50 mile radius of slot parlors and casinos, you increase the level of addiction. Proximity to slots means new addicts.

There has not been a true cost-benefit study, nor will there be. The proponents constantly cite job numbers and state revenues, stats which come direct from the casino lobbyists and their paid consultants. We have never heard of the estimated costs associated with predatory gambling in our backyard - such as mitigating increased crime rates (and there will be increased crime, and from the unlikeliest of people). Affecting public institutions, churches, nonprofits, and small businesses especially.

In CT, a state-commissioned study showed that the rate of embezzlement has gone up 10 times the national average there.

Among other associated costs (such as the millions needed to create an oversight agency), is the loss of state revenues from other sources which are taxed, as some people spend their discretionary monies on slots and gambling instead of other goods and services. There’s only so many ways to slice the pie. You can’t create more pie matter out of thin air.

The costs only go up over time. A decade from now, the number of addicts who commit crimes to support their habit, tear their families apart, and/or require addiction services from the state will only go up. Businesses in the vicinity of a casino may well not be able to compete and shut down. Cultural institutions closest to CT already have a hard time attracting the best acts to their stages, and this will also spread and worsen. This won’t happen all in the first year the casinos begin operating. But over the next two decades we’ll see increased effects from the life-sucking casinos and slot parlors.

Casino proponents say that you get increased tourism when you open a casino. This is only true if every state doesn’t already have one. We will not pull people from NV, or CT, or PA, or RI, or anywhere where else gambling is already accessible, with our shiny new casinos. This is a false hope and gets more false with every new state that adds casinos. We’d be better off focusing on our historic and cultural offerings to attract more visitors.

They say we’ll be adding jobs. But that is finite, the jobs are mostly low-paying, and the numbers they cite are usually overblown.

Think about your disposable income. You might go out to eat, buy a new couch, or go the the movies. Each one of these things supports a whole host of services and goods (farmers, small business owners, chefs, fabric companies, woodworkers, gaffers, costume designers, camera operators). Now, decide whether or not you can afford to buy a couch, or lose a thousand at a casino. What does the casino income support? A few paltry (mostly low paying) service jobs locally, a trickle to the state, and the rest pulled out of the state but not to support other producers - no, the bulk of the money goes straight to the pockets of the casino profiteers. Casinos are empty calories, like the guy who consumes a 2-liter bottle of Coke a day, is 50 lbs overweight, and wondering why.

Never mind the questionable morality and sustainability of the state being in the position of needing to create more gambling addicts to raise funds for schools. Studies show that at least 50% of the profits a casino makes are from the problem gamblers. That means 50% of the state revenues we get from casinos is sucked from people who cannot help gambling and will do so until they destroy their own lives and the lives of others. And slots, in particular, are rigged to make them particularly addictive (similar to adding chemicals to cigarettes to increase their addictiveness).

Casinos are going bankrupt and losing money in many states. States with casinos have huge budget problems as those revenues go into the tank, whereas Mass, with its infrastructure and high-level industry investments (such as in green and biotech) has seen amazing job and economic growth compared to other states. And we want to tie our future to those same gambling stars? Connecticut just raised sales and use taxes this summer to patch their big budget deficit. Oh yes, those casinos saved CT from economic ruin. (That’s sarcasm. Revenues for CT’s casinos are dropping alarmingly.)

So in sweeps DeLeo and his race track slot parlor mentality. And he begs, borrows, and twists arms to get enough votes to pass a bill includes a racino (an element that sank the last gambling bill in the Senate). But this time, closed door compromises between the Senate president, House Speaker, and Governor Patrick all but ensure there’s no hope now in the Senate, unless we see an upset.

Of course, we expect such short-sighted voting from some of our elected officials, such as Rep Tom Golden and Dave Nangle, as they have a history of such. However, my biggest disappointment is reserved for those who at least ought to know better about rosy projections that never have panned out in the past in other states. Who are smart and should be keenly interested in an independent, thorough evaluation before we commit an irreversible act to allow predatory gambling.

Politicians like Governor Deval Patrick, who I know is way smarter than this.

Progressive state reps that I have long supported, like Representative Jen Benson, who was a Yes vote on this bill.

And other progressives around the state, like Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead.

I call on our new state Senator Eileen Donoghue to vote NO on this casino bill. Donoghue, who is Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, pointed out on Facebook, the other day, a Sun article outlining some meager possible protections for cultural institutions.

I hope this does not mean she is already a “Yes” vote. Senator Donoghue, you are not only Chair of that committee, but you are also on the committees for Community Development and Small Businesses, and Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. I entreat you to look at the casinos bill with your small business, cultural institution, and constituent eyes. Question what you have been told about the revenues for the state and the jobs numbers - look at what is happening to casino states all over the country right now. Understand that allowing casinos comes at a huge cost - not only to our citizens and our economic development, but to our politics, which will be further spoiled by the corruption that comes with the casino lobby parking itself permanently in our state.

Do you want to be noted in history as a person who enabled our state go from the strong economic engine that we are, which invests in its own people and businesses, to a state with many of the serious problems of others, states who thought they could make a quick and easy buck…by gambling? It doesn’t work for the poor schlub who thinks buying a lottery ticket every week is a good retirement plan, and it won’t work for Massachusetts, either.

21 Responses to “The Disappointment I Feel”

  1. Tim Little Says:

    Well said.

  2. Fran McDougall Says:

    Where can I see the final vote tally?

  3. Jack Says:

    The Roll Call is posted here.

  4. Elias Nugator Says:

    At least my rep had the common god damned sense to vote no. Otherwise, one former Speaker of the House is going to the slams for 8 yrs for $50K worth of pilferage, we cannot run the Probation Department on the up and up and these mooks want to add casino gambling to the mix??
    It will be the death of the state democratic party, mark my words.

    Elias

  5. Michael Luciano Says:

    So because a minority of casino patrons are or will become gambling addicts, this is reason to prohibit casinos in the state? Seems pretty specious to me. Alcohol has a much higher cost, both in terms of human life and money. Should we prohibit alcohol because a small percentage of of users are problem drinkers? What about fast food chains? How many health-related problems can be traced to those establishments? Indeed, half the US population is predicted to be obese by 2030. Shouldn’t we try to stem that tide?

    You want the government to legislate morality under the guise of protecting the public good. I say, people ought to be free to make such choices for themselves.

  6. Lynne Says:

    Yes. I do think this is reason enough to prohibit casinos in the state.

    The state should not rely on getting revenues, half of which depend on addicting more people to casinos. Period end of story.

    Gambling addiction is a much more pernicious problem in a society than alcohol (though alcohol’s devastation to families I won’t deny). People don’t embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars to support their alcohol habit. They do for drugs (and note, drugs are illegal). And while the state collects revenues from alcohol, it isn’t in the position of encouraging people to become alcoholics. But since 50% of revenues from a casino are from addicts, then the state has a vested interest to be sure people stay addicted, don’t they? Not the sort of position I want my government to be in.

    Look at the Lottery, for heaven’s sake. The STATE advertises the wonders of the Lottery to residents. Yet a huge portion of the lottery’s revenues are from people who are least able to afford it spending thousands a year on lottery tickets. It’s not right. We don’t want the state in this position any more than it already is.

    If you like gambling, there are PLENTY of places for you to go exercise your right to blow your wad. However, as a plan for economic growth, budgetary stability, and societal interests, it sucks, plain and simple. Couple all of this with the devastating effects casinos have on cultural institutions, local businesses (again, people have a SET amount of discretionary spending, and if they eat out at the casino, are they going to go to Mom and Pop Restaurant nearby? No), and the gambling lobby’s corrupting influence on the politics of ANY state it gets its claws into, and you wind up with very questionable gains for our state.

    What are the state Reps so goddamned AFRAID of, that they won’t even have an independent study of the REAL effects of allowing slots/casinos into our state??? All the numbers that get cited by the yes voters are from the effing casino lobby. NO ONE talks about this except for a few hardy souls who can see the forest for the trees.

    Tell me, Michael, are you also for legalizing methamphetamines?

  7. Lynne Says:

    BTW it’s NOT just about morality, or did you not even read my post? It’s also about the practical reality of what happens to businesses, revenues, etc when a state lets these predatory casinos and slot parlors in.

    Keep in mind, when polled statewide, a small majority of people will say they’re for legalized gambling. When asked if they’d be for locating one of these suckers right near their own town, they vehemently don’t want it. What does this say? Why would we as a state want one in our backyard if our citizens don’t want it in their specific backyards???

  8. Michael Luciano Says:

    Two things before I proceed: (1) I have never set foot in any casino, nor do I know anybody who works at one. I have no personal stake in this fight. (2) I agree that the state should not “rely” on casino taxes.

    But I support the legalization of gambling for the same reason I support the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, including, yes, methamphetamines (to answer your question). This doesn’t mean I think they should be available at 7-11, but they ought to be legal and highly regulated. When you prohibit such vices, you merely succeed in driving these activities underground. Remember that the prohibition of alcohol (as well as gambling and prostitution) gave rise to organized crime in America.

    Your assertion that gambling addiction is more destructive than alcoholism is wrong, and almost self-evidently so. No gambling addict ever died as a result of vital organ damage sustained from years of playing the slots. No gambler ever slammed his car into a family of four because he was gambling while driving. And because of this, no gambler ever helped drive up the costs of health and auto insurance for everybody. And I will reiterate my contention that the negative consequences of fast food consumption in America are far greater than those of gambling. According to your criteria, I think you should forget about banning blackjack and maybe focus on Jack in the Box instead.

    As far as casinos possibly putting local establishments out of business, why not leave that for the municipalities to decide? I hardly think it should be up to you, the State, or anyone else but the people of say, Mashpee, to determine which businesses are appropriate for them to have in their town.

    This is the sort of alarmism that always accompanies significant changes in social policy. Ultimately it will prove unwarranted and within a decade of the first Mass. casino opening, this whole thing will become such a non-issue, people will wonder what the big deal was in the first place.

  9. Lynne Says:

    If you want methamphetamines legalized, I think you’re way off the reservation. Decriminalizing marijuana I can see, but not hard drugs. That does NOT solve our drug problem. (BTW, methamphetamines are highly addictive, in no circumstance is it safe or not addictive to use meth.) Good god! I’d hate to live in the world you would create. That’s insane. As a progressive, I want to see drug addicts treated instead of incarcerated with mandatory minimums, but never in a million years would I advocate legalizing meth.

    Alcohol can be more destructive PERSONALLY (though even that is arguable in individual circumstances), but as for the amount of monetary and economic destruction (of families, of churches and businesses that are embezzled from) that damage is way WAY more widespread. The damage is not contained within a single individual or those that person may hurt. BTW we’ve severely reduced drunk driving by making big penalties for doing it, even if all you do is drive down the street and hurt no one.

    Little old church ladies embezzling tens of or hundreds of thousands from their parish coffers creates a whole new level of societal problems.

    Not only that, but alcohol and gambling addiction often go hand in hand. So, we’re OK with putting more temptations in front of an already vulnerable person so they can totally destroy their lives, as opposed to ruin their liver over decades? Great. I want my state to get into THAT business.

    “As far as casinos possibly putting local establishments out of business, why not leave that for the municipalities to decide?”

    No, it’s NOT up to them to decide. Once a casino moves in to your vicinity, whole towns in surrounding communities are affected through no fault of their own. Particularly in very densely populated areas. Go check out the area off the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, or just off the strip in Vegas. They’re depressed, crime-ridden hellholes. Do I want South Boston to wind up like that? Um, no. I’d rather not take the chance.

    On top of that, when it comes to legalizing slots in the state, you then no longer HAVE control over federally-recognized tribal lands, they can do what they want with impunity. The objections of a local community notwithstanding. In other words, you are taking away the choice of thousands to NOT live in the vicinity of a life-sucking casino or slot parlor.

  10. Michael Luciano Says:

    I will assume your comment about my position on drug legalization being “off the reservation” is not some poor attempt at a casino pun.

    The argument that casinos wipe out mom and pop stores is the same one we hear from people who oppose new Targets and Wal-Marts in their towns. I’ve never found that line of argument to be a particularly convincing reason for prohibiting their construction. And by citing high crime in Vegas and AC in your opposition casinos here in Mass., you select two extreme examples in which the local economies are heavily reliant on the industry. But how are things in Uncasville? Is that a crime-ridden hell hole? No. How about Lincoln, RI? Nope. What about the surrounding areas of these places? No hellholes there either. Believe it or not, casinos can be built without creating some sort of post-apocalyptic dystopia in the community around it.

    You and I obviously have a philosophical disagreement about the role and scope of government. You wish to vest the government with the power to tell citizens what they can and cannot put in their bodies, and with the power to tell them what they can and cannot do with their money. I think THAT’S insane.

  11. Miles Perhoure Says:

    These projects will be huge…like the big dig. We’ve got a pitiful and predictable track record with big projects. And as god is my judge, have we forgotten the condemnation the citizenry has endured at the hands of our ‘one party government’? Our big D government cares little for the impact of three casinos on the ab utters. We are sacrificed at the alter of the likes of Local 103 or 25, or 123. Big D’s, owned by big unions, and ignited by flammable visions of enrichment and self-interest. Hopefully. the line of indicted and convicted pols, will be as long as the line of addicts waiting for their medicine.

  12. Right in Lowell Says:

    Elias… from your mouth to God’s ears. I so hope your prediction is correct.

  13. C R Krieger Says:

    Unlike Elias Nugator, we are not lucky enough for any of our three Reps to vote no.

    I am not against gambling and people gambling.  Like Lynne I think that the cost/benefit analysis, if done, would show that the People and Government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would not benefit from casinos in the long run.  Although it does represent an alternate approach to tax collection.  Rather than a tax on the rich or the poor, it will be a tax on the innumerate.

    Gambling is available to those in our fair Commonwealth who wish to participate.

    As for legalized drugs, that requires a whole different analysis, one that involves international relations and armed forces and asks questions about failed states and narco-terrorism.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  14. Jack Says:

    Regulatory jihad was waged against the tabacco industry. Why? Because free peoples’ choices cost the public BIG BUCKS.

    PREAMBLE.

    The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.

    The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.

    We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    I submit that our Constitution says; you give a little, you get a little.

  15. Lynne Says:

    I think we as a people can decide what is good, and what is bad, for our society and build laws accordingly. Like, we think, roads are good. So we build them. Initially, the highway system was about invasion and world wars and such (fears about an ability for quick military mobilization) and putting people to work in the Great Depression. Building them out however had serious decades-long consequences. We became a nation of drivers. We have had subsidized driving for the last 75 years. It lowered the cost of driving, such that public transportation started to die down in comparison. Now some of this is circumstantial - we’re a big nation so a road system was a little inevitable. However, the extent that we became such an auto-based country had a LOT to do with government policy, for better or for worse. (For global climate change, it’s worse, but for economic development and mobility, it’s done us a lot of good.)

    This is how government policy can affect a whole region or nation in a very real way. Government, which is us, has a role to play in deciding the direction of society. Its allowance or disallowance or subsidizing influence can create whole new sectors of the economy, or destroy others.

    When I say that local businesses suffer because of casinos, that’s because it happens everywhere you’ve seen one. Some ridiculous # of restaurants closed within a certain radius of Atlantic City’s casinos when they had been put in place. If you don’t like facts that’s fine, but this is a documented affect of casinos. As I stated, the more urban the local area is, the worse this affect is, and also the longer these things are in place the worse it is. *shrug* Believe what you want. But I bet you can find some closed down restaurants in Lincoln RI - and also, slot parlors that don’t offer other entertainment obviously aren’t going to affect restaurants in the area (though they have other effects).

    “You wish to vest the government with the power to tell citizens what they can and cannot put in their bodies, and with the power to tell them what they can and cannot do with their money.”

    You are so backwards in describing what I believe. Thanks for making assumptions. I am a civil libertarian and I believe that freedoms and rights are VERY important and I resent you making that accusation. When and where freedoms can be given without adversely destroying other people’s freedoms or affecting society in such a way as to create more problems than they solve, I am all for freedom. However, WE are all in this TOGETHER, something many conservatives apparently love to forget. You didn’t get where you are today as an island, my friend. You drove on those subsidized roads, went to subsidized schools (and if you did not go to public school, your fellows did, and because you were surrounded by educated people your economy was stronger). You drink city water and use city services. You will be guaranteed a paycheck in old age as well as medical care. Unless you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and forgo all these benefits of living in our democratic society, then you are as socialist as anyone.

  16. Renee Says:

    I haven’t been to Foxwoods since 04′. At first it was the novelty when I turned 21, but really after a few years it really wasn’t that fun. I have more fun winning a raffle. You know the money is for a non-profit. The odds are always in favor of the casino’s profit, essentially you’re a fool for playing.

  17. Christopher Says:

    Maybe the fact that several legislators you otherwise like, respect, trust, etc. voted for this bill means its not all bad after all. I’m with the Governor - neither panacea nor the end of civilization.

  18. Michael Luciano Says:

    I did not make an assumption, but a statement of fact. That you think certain drugs and (casino) gambling ought to be illegal, is stark proof that you believe the government should have the authority to prevent people from say, using methamphetamines, or establishing a slot parlor. You say you are a civil libertarian, but seemingly with qualifications, which of course is no civil libertarian at all.

    Truth be told, you are the one making assumptions here. You assume that because I believe people should be able to ingest whatever they want and spend their money however they want, that this somehow means I oppose public roads and clean drinking water. This is a non sequitur.

  19. joe from Lowell Says:

    but never in a million years would I advocate legalizing meth.

    I hear you, but…what has banning it accomplished?

    Polluted a bunch of improvised cook sites? Made the transactions between suppliers more violent?

  20. Renee Says:

    Most of the cases I see at the Department of Children and Families, are children whose parents are addicted to drugs. Even if drugs were legal, the affects of the drugs on their minds would still would leave them as neglectful and abusive parents. Do you want me to go into detail of the squalor, lack of food and clean clean clothes, the lack of emotional concern, or how they don’t care who they leave their young children or not caring who their older children hang out with.

    Sooner, then later I guess I’m going to sit on cases that involve a parent’s gambling problem.

    interesting page on how gambling industries target asians

    http://aaunited.org/campaigns/no-casinos/

  21. Chuck Baggett Says:

    Based on the discussion here there’s at least one person involved who supports gambling being legal, hence my posting here.

    I started a petition at the White House petition site. Possibly someone would like to sign it.

    Here is the url http://wh.gov/gsl and the text:

    ——–
    We petition the Obama administration to: Legalize Gambling.

    The administration should take all steps it can on its own to remove legal penalties for gambling. The administration should work with Congress to repeal all laws penalizing gambling. Any presidential orders, directives, etc. penalizing gambling should be revoked. Laws, directives, etc. penalizing credit card companies and other similar companies for engaging in transactions involving gambling should be repealed or revoked. The administration should take whatever measures it can to encourage state and local governments to remove laws penalizing gambling. The administration should act to withdraw the United States from any treaties that penalize gambling.
    ——–

    If you like the idea please share the petition, tweet it, plurk, etc.

    Thanks.

    http://wh.gov/gsltext
    The White House

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