Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
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.
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