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.

August 19, 2010

Wonderland Closing

by at 12:54 pm.

And it’s about time. Without dogs to abuse, and with slots at racetracks dead, the Revere track has decided to go out of business.

This Sun article overemphasizes the positives of the closing track (the jobs left there, its long glorious history as a place to break the delicate bones of greyhounds, etc). I do feel bad for the 100 people losing their jobs as I would any workers in any industry, but the idea of putting the welfare of 100 people in largely low-wage jobs ahead of the welfare of the thousands in the area who could potentially become addicted to slots (and commit crimes to feed their disease, and the victims of the crimes…etc etc) and the welfare of our Commonwealth, is, well, a bit disingenuous.

Maybe these 100 people could be better put to work to redeveloping that prime real estate, and into jobs that are created once that land has been put to other use.

August 2, 2010

Governor Patrick Did the Right Thing

by at 4:13 pm.

I don’t know if it’s for the right reasons, but Patrick is sending the casino bill (3 resorts, 2 racinos) back “with amendments” - a procedure whereby without a veto, he can send the bill back to the legislature.

Governor Deval Patrick says he will send an amended gambling expansion bill back to legislators today that would eliminate a provision for two slot machine facilities, and he retracted a previous compromise offer to allow one slot parlor in the state.

“I’m done. I’m done with that,” he said of his earlier offer.

This effectively kills the bill for this legislative session. The legislature would have to be called back into session, something Senate President Murray isn’t interested in, and without racinos, Speaker DeLeo won’t be, either. The Governor has consistently cited racinos to be bad policy (why they are bad and slots at casinos aren’t is for another discussion) and he refuses the no-bid nature of the compromise policy for racinos:

Patrick also reiterated his strong opposition to awarding slot licenses to racetrack owners.

“I’m not going to be a party to no-bid contracts for track owners,” he said.

Maybe now he can finally see the corrupting nature of gambling money in politics. If you think lobbying is a problem, look at the gambling lobby, which uses money sucked up mostly from addicts, and other states have had a lot of corruption surrounding casino interests. (Hell, look at Abramoff!) Heck, we have only to smell the stench of corruption regarding the current Treasurer-turned-gubernatorial-candidate Cahill and the state lottery!

Regardless of why, though, this is the right thing to do, and it kills a bad bill that would have cost the state far too much - in money and in broken lives - in the long run. Massachusetts is better than profiting on the misery of countless new addicts of predatory gambling that casinos and racinos would have created.

July 30, 2010

To Gov Patrick: NO No-Bid Contracts for ANY Track

by at 12:26 pm.

The Globe reports there’s a deal between the House and Senate on the casino bill. DeLeo wants slots at the racetracks (aka slot parlors) and the Senate wanted, well, none.

The deal would authorize three resort casinos and would allow the state’s four racetracks to compete for two slot parlor licenses. The deal does not meet Governor Deval Patrick’s demands. He said Thursday he would accept creation of one slot parlor as part of the expanded gambling bill, if legislators agreed to break a legislative logjam on Beacon Hill.
[…]
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who initially wanted slot licenses for each of the four tracks, had recently signaled he would accept two slot parlors, with the racetracks given a preference in the bidding, the Globe has reported.

While I disagree with the whole damn bill (it’s junk, it’ll only harm us in the long run, there is no such thing as free money), I certainly am against any slot parlors. I am really certainly against a no-bid or easy-bid contract for the racetracks to get them as a preference. But of course, that’s what DeLeo wants. I’ll be charitable and say it’s because he has some racetracks in his constituency - though it is pretty plain this is more than just saving a mere handful of jobs (and I do mean mere handful).

So, I hope the Governor stands firm - no deal if there are no-bid or preferential-bid contracts in the mix. My personal fave outcome here would be, of course, for a dead bill, and there is only roughly 36 hours left in the legislative session. But that’s not the only reason I do not want the Governor to give in here. I think it’s wrong to start handing out giant no-bid or restricted-bid contracts at all, especially to an industry which is linked to some of the worst sorts of abuses and ethical problems in the state.

By the way, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO’s stand on this is super shortsighted. If you want real jobs, casinos are so not the way to go. It all looks good on paper in the short run, but the degradation of the local economy around casinos will kill more jobs that the whole shebang creates. (Ask the restaurants and other entertainment venues around Atlantic City’s casinos.) It also kills opportunity for venues like the Lowell Summer Music Series to attract acts, since they can’t compete with the casinos on artist salaries. The venues out near Connecticut already have problems with this - we want to create more?

April 8, 2010

The Economics of Casinos

by at 12:41 pm.

This is just about the best comment on the giant sucking sound casinos make in an economy I’ve ever seen. NoPolitician lays it all out.

I’m not against casinos out of any moral concerns. I’m against them for economic reasons.

My interpretation of an economy is that it is basically the movement of money between parties in exchange for goods and services. I buy something from you, you buy something from me. An economy gets bigger as more players enter it, as more money enters, and as more transactions occur. I think it is a zero-sum game to a certain extent, but that when more transactions happen, money circulates faster, and that is how economies can grow.

Because I think that an economy works better when more money is circulating, I believe that when some players in an economy just accumulate money (i.e. insanely rich people), that makes the economy weaker, particularly because those people are not often investing in the local economy, so they are taking money from the local economy. I believe that a certain accumulation of money is necessary (this is when money becomes capital, and capital is necessary in an economy), but I think that these days capital is more fickle particularly when local economies are concerned. Capital would rather invest in Indonesia than locally just to get one more basis point.

I see casinos as basically taking a lot of money out of our local economy and sending it elsewhere, usually out-of-state. I don’t think that will be good for our local economy because it quickly converts free-flowing money from our local economy into remote capital.

But it gets even better here (honestly, I am quoting most of the comment, which I normally never do, but it’s that good):

I also see casinos distorting the economy. There was a good article a couple of weeks ago about how casinos affect local performing arts venues. Casinos are able to pay more for artists, and subsequently charge patrons less for shows. Why? Because they aren’t concerned with the shows making a stand-alone profit, the shows are designed to get customers for the casinos. That means stand-alone venues can’t compete, and go out of business. I can attest that in Springfield, since Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were built, the concert scene has completely dried up. But not down there — plenty of artists playing the casinos. Meanwhile our downtown is dead, our local economy based on downtown entertainment has been killed.

I don’t think casinos do much for the local economy because casinos are primarily concerned with keeping the revenue on-site, and with keeping people as close to the action. They build their own hotels, they build their own restaurants, they even build their own retail. Their primary purpose is to get as much money out of a consumer as possible. Hey, that’s capitalism, but casinos don’t necessarily play fair. They use psychologists to figure out how to get you to spend every last dollar, and then some, on their games.

I don’t see any casinos in this country that have a ring of prosperity around them. I haven’t heard of casinos being the economic engine anywhere.

I think that a lot of people who would frequent these casinos are probably spending a good chunk of money on our state lottery. That money funds local aid. I think that local aid would decrease if those people had more access to casinos. Are we prepared for that?

I understand the argument that Massachusetts residents are spending money on casinos now. However, since the groups that are backing these casinos are involved with the CT casinos, that is a clear sign that they expect more — probably a lot more business from MA residents if casinos are built here. They’re not going to spend billions simply to cannibalize customers from their existing casinos.

All that is why I don’t buy the argument from casino-backers that casinos would be good for our economy. I primarily see money being taken out of our economy. I see unfair competition for local businesses. I see irrational decisions being made by consumers based on psychological warfare by the casinos. I see a distortion of our economy.

A lot of people decry taxes as “taking money from the economy” — but taxes are almost always spent locally, so that’s not really true. And taxes often improve infrastructure, and fund things that keep the economy moving forward.

Casinos will tax the economy without those benefits. They will send money elsewhere, they will de-fund local aid, and they will leave people with less money to spend on the real economy.

I appreciate that we could be in a “cat’s out of the bag” situation since other states have casinos. I don’t have an answer for that. I just have a big problem with joining the race to the bottom though.

If you’re for a strong economy, then we shouldn’t have casinos. That’s about it in a nutshell. Casinos weaken economies. Take a look around at the depressed areas around the casinos of other states. The loss of small businesses and entertainment venues. There are a finite dollars being spent in our economy, and casinos suck them up and move them far, far away, with very little to show for it other than a state addicted to what winds up becoming (over the years) to be a paltry revenue stream that is quickly eaten up mitigating the socioeconomic problems they create. For instance, the crime rate of embezzlement:

No other state that reported 40 or more embezzlements in 1992 has had a higher percentage increase than Connecticut. The percentage increase in Connecticut from 1992 to 2007 is nearly 400 percent . . . nearly 10 times that of the national average. Our research shows that many of those who stole from their employer used either part or all of the money to gamble at the two Indian casinos.

Kevin O’Connor was the state’s US Attorney from 2002 to April 2007. . . O’Connor said he noticed a spike in embezzlements shortly after he took office. “The FBI is spending a considerable amount of time on these cases,” O’Connor said, noting he became so concerned
over the number of cases that he instructed his press officer to indicate in press releases whether gambling played a role in the embezzlement.

“It wasn’t just embezzlements,” O’Connor said of the casino-related crime that was prosecuted on the federal level. “It was fraud, bank robberies and thefts as well. And over and over, we would learn that they were done to feed a gambling habit.”

No one knows better than Lawrence Tytla that embezzlements have been on the rise. He is the Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney for New London County. Tytla first started with the office in 1988. The motive then, he noted, for embezzlements was to feed a drug habit; today it is to feed a gambling habit.

Tytla said he is stunned by the type of people committing the embezzlements in southeastern Connecticut. “These are people that almost always never had a criminal record,” he noted. “They are upstanding citizens who gained the trust of their employers, who never suspected that they could have been victimized this way. They think they are the only ones this has happened to. What’s astonishing is the magnitude of the embezzlements and how long they go undetected.”

Elsewhere in that same report can be found these statistics:

“Our survey indicates a probable pathological gambling prevalence rate of 1.2 percent . . . to 1.5 percent . . . the baseline estimate of for gambling losses is $13,586 per pathological gambler. It is a figure that has been used to determine the financial costs in several other gambling-impact studies. The losses of the pathological gamblers could therefore range from $435 million to $543 million.”

It should be noted that the numbers in Massachusetts are expected to be roughly twice the numbers from Connecticut due to Massachusetts’ significantly larger population base. That would mean projected losses of roughly $800 million to $1.0 billion dollars - and that’s just from embezzlements!

—From a United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts email, citing numbers from this study from the state of Connecticut: “Gambling in Connecticut: Analyzing the Economic and Social Impacts.”

The email states:

…the company who prepared the study [for CT], Spectrum Gaming Group of Linwood, New Jersey, is the exact same company who prepared a separate gambling viability report on casinos and slots for Massachusetts that has been used to justify pending legislation allowing predatory gambling, slots/casinos in the Commonwealth.

This alarming statistic was nowhere to be found within the original 301-page Massachusetts report. Nor was it contained in the updated tax-funded Massachusetts gambling benefit report released last week.

But we don’t have time for a real, independent study of the downsides of allowing casinos? Just the supposed upsides?

April 6, 2010

Want to Read Research on Casinos?

by at 4:33 pm.

Do your homework. Don’t be knee-jerk in favor of casinos. I’m telling you, the arguments against legalizing more gambling in this state are more than compelling. For liberals AND conservatives both. The math doesn’t add up.

If you want a run down on many, many posts on the subject, I suggest you go here. There has been some excellent work by activists and simple folk on BMG alike.

Also, many people may not be aware that the often-neutral League of Women Voters has been against casinos and expanded gambling since the 90s. They are a highly respected organization famed for their excellent issue debates. But they have looked at the facts and have decided that this is not an issue that needs more debate. After studying it carefully, they unequivocally state that casinos are bad for communities, bad for revenue, and very bad policy.

Casinos are a Pandora’s box, folks. Once unleashed, we will never be rid of them. They will remain as a corrupting influence, sucking money out of our economy for the benefit of the big casino interests, for as long as they want to be. This is why proponents do not want an independent study to be done, but is ramming this through without any decent hearing and no studies.

April 4, 2010

Will Lowell’s Delegation Have Integrity?

by at 9:30 pm.

If you’ve been a reader of LiL for a few years, you know that I stood very strong against allowing casino gambling resorts. The matter is up once again in front of the legislature, in a worse form than the last, and instead of being opposed by this Speaker (as the last one did) it is being championed, and DeLeo claims this time it will pass, and with a veto proof majority (Gov. Patrick is on record as being against slot parlors).

They are doing this with no public hearing, and no independent study to refute the pie-in-the-sky claims of the proponent of gambling (who use studies produced, bought and paid for by gambling companies).

The math of these so-called studies never added up, and don’t take into account a slew of factors, like the cost to the state of mitigating the known increase of gambling addiction in a 50 mile radius, the cost of more police, crimes in our state due to gambling addiction, courts, and the loss of small businesses in the area of a casino (and hence, tax revenue) - as well as a loss of revenue from the lottery as well. Slot parlors (which DeLeo is pushing, as he has former race tracks in his district) have none even of the charms of resort casinos (which would a piddly smattering of mostly poor-paying jobs and some temporary construction jobs). We have also seen our neighbor states’ slot parlors and some casinos go bankrupt in the last few years, many of them requesting help from the the state to bail them out. Under any measure, casinos and slots are the least useful ways to produce revenue for the state in the long run. They don’t produce anything, and suck money away from communities that could be spent here. The costs go up over time, and generally, revenues go down as casino owners lobby for decreased taxes (and once here, they have the state by the balls).

Hey folks, if something looks to good to be true, then you can bet…the House always wins.

In the previous vote on the Governor’s casino proposal, all three of our state Representative delegation - Nangle, Golden, and Murphy - voted to kill the bill (a yes vote sent the bill back to committee to die). I applaud them for this. The bill died a very hard death, going down 108-46.

Now it appears a huge number of these legislators are ready to flip flop on their previous vote, because the powerful Speaker of the House tells them to (if DeLeo’s claims about his chances are actually true).

I call on our legislators to remain strong against casinos. If the previous bill looked suspect, this bill is even worse, and not good for our state. At a minimum, we should take the time to get a truly independent investigation on the real costs of casinos or slot parlors in our state.

If you think Beacon Hill is corrupt now, just wait until it is trying to protect gambling interests because we’ve become addicted to the revenue.

Please call your legislator and tell them to oppose this bill, or at the very minimum, demand an independent study to look at the truth behind casinos and slot parlors. You can get their info here. Why are gambling proponents afraid of an independent study?

July 13, 2009

Shame on the Pats

by at 11:41 am.

Les Bernal, a passionate anti-casino activist, writes about the Patriots-lottery partnership in the Metrowest Daily News. The Patriots are putting their brand on the $20 lottery scratch ticket.

I’ve worked with Les before, and he’s a very serious fact-based guy. He puts a few of these statistics into his op ed, and they are scary:

A national commission report sponsored by Congress and the president showed that the top 5 percent of lottery users account for 54 percent of total sales and the top 20 percent provide 82 percent of total sales. That means the casual Lottery player, which makes up four out of every five players, is of little value to the Lottery’s revenue scheme.

Casinos are even more predatory - 90 percent of their gambling profits come from 10 percent of the people they target, making nine out of every ten casino visitors irrelevant to the casino business model.

The predatory gambling trade’s bread and butter are addicted or heavily-indebted citizens. They attempt to elude charges of exploitation by pleading it is a “voluntary” act, hiding under the cloak of “freedom.” But by definition, someone who is an addict or someone who is in deep financial debt is not free.

Two years ago I was on the fence about the Governor’s then-proposal for casinos in Massachusetts. That was when I got to work researching both sides’ arguments: the revenue and jobs promises from proponents, and the statistics that showcase the experiences in other states and the harm to society that has been experienced elsewhere. That was when I became adamantly against casinos in Massachusetts, or with having gambling expanded in any manner in our state. There are far more fair ways to raise revenues than to addict a portion of our population to gambling for profit. (Like, say, a progressive income tax.)

We have had a lottery here for quite some time, and though I would love to see it gone - the people who can least afford it are the ones who are sold on the promise of a chance to become rich, and therefore spend thousands a year they really don’t have on scratch tickets - chances are, our state is too addicted to the revenues it produces (originally intended for schools, now sent as general funds for local aid). You see, that’s problem number one: the state itself gets addicted, and therefore is subject to blackmail by the companies making the money on the gambling, and certainly, even if it’s discovered in a decade or so that casinos or other gambling venues are a bad investment by our state (costing more in mitigation than they provide in revenues, destroying too many families, etc) there’s no appetite for banning them once again, because the revenue loss would hit the state’s coffers and the costs of cleanup would still be there for some time.

But back to the New England Patriots, of which I am a huge fan (the only sport I’ll watch is football and the only games I’ll watch are Pats games!). Les is right. This partnership with the lottery dilutes their brand and makes me ashamed to call myself a fan. Putting the brand on something intended to addict a segment of the (mostly impoverished) population in order to fund services to that same vulnerable group is not how I want to picture the Pats, who have had some great influences both on and off the gridiron. I hope the Pats’ ownership rethinks this poor choice and backs out of this partnership. There are better ways to spread the Patriots great brand in New England and beyond.

MariW in comments to Les’ column (linked above) had this really great point:

There’s a reason the NFL doesn’t allow its members to gamble on games. None of the professional league sports allow that. It’s because the culture of gambling is corrupt and corrupting. Allowing the state lottery to use its logo, etc may not violate the letter of NFL regulations, but it sure violates the spirit. Shame on you, Patriots!

(HT: Ryan of Ryan’s Take via Facebook.)

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”?

March 5, 2009

Can’t Manage the Lottery, Now Wants to Be Governor??

by at 10:36 am.

Via Dick Howe’s blog, a report from the Globe that Treasurer Tim Cahill is considering a run against Governor Patrick. Of course, he’s floating the idea balloon this early in order to assess interest like all pols, but the report says that he’s also thinking he’d run as an independent to avoid going against Patrick in a primary, where he’d be shellacked, in favor of being shellacked in the general. Indys don’t win many elections.

This, from the spendthrift whose tender ministry of the lottery has put revenues for cities and towns in jeopardy during this downturn? I am no big fan of the lottery, which besides being a tax on stupid people, is a tax on desperate people looking for hope, but:

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill often says that the Massachusetts Lottery has enjoyed unprecedented growth under his leadership. But a review of lottery records shows that exploding administrative costs at the agency have soaked up a large portion of the new revenue, limiting the amount it shares with Massachusetts cities and towns.

Since Cahill took over five years ago, administrative spending has ballooned by nearly 50 percent, with higher costs for advertising, telephones, computers, and lottery ticket printing, including outside contracts signed with some of the treasurer’s campaign contributors.

Yeah, that doesn’t look like typical Beacon Hill culture, there. The lottery for Cahill has been a great way to secure loyalties from employees and campaign contributers alike. Like this:

On Cahill’s watch, the lottery increased its ranks of employees by nearly 10 percent. It bought 233 cellphones and BlackBerries for employees. It replaced most of its fleet of take-home vehicles for employees, spending $1.25 million to buy 73 new vans, crossover wagons, cars, and a Jeep in the last two years alone.

The lottery also agreed to a more costly lease to pay for $1.3 million in renovations at its Braintree headquarters, including a slick upgrade of the lobby. Visitors can now watch Keno and Mass Millions advertisements on two large flat-screen televisions as they lounge on lime-green art deco couches while a receptionist works under the glow of blue glass pendant lamps.

The HQ, Cahill claims, was redecorated to “make it ‘more enticing’ for visitors and winning ticket holders who come in to claim their money.” Um, hi, those people just won millions, I think that’s enticement enough to come pick up their money. And most of the growth in the lottery was and is eaten up by the burgeoning administrative overhead.

Then there’s his (ruled illegal) plan to privatize the lottery, and his even stupider plan for ugly warehouses of slot machines (hey, they can be “quickly erected”!)

So why, exactly, would we want to put him in the top executive office in the state, where he could work the same magic of cronyism and dumb ideas that benefit his donors (which include gambling interests)? I mean, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be fighting under Patrick? (And at least with the current Gov, his interest in resort casinos wasn’t driven by his campaign coffers.)

Honestly, someone should run against him as Treasurer and put us out of our misery. And please, Tim, feel free to vacate that office and run for Governor where you are sure to be crushed by the Patrick juggernaut. The only thing I’m worried about with Cahill is his big-money donors and their ability to pay Cahill back for his largess while Treasurer. Which won’t sit well with voters, if they know about it.

I mean, is this guy for real?

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