Tag Archives: casino

A proud day for Gov. Patrick and for Massachusetts

I’ve got my issues with Gov. Deval Patrick. Over the years I’ve given him two Muzzle Awards, for pandering to the decency police and for an excessive devotion to governmental secrecy. And don’t get me started on casino gambling.

Today, though, I’m proud that he’s my governor.

Booze, pills and the economics of casinos

Caesar

Caesar

The chaos that has broken out over the split between Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment is good news for casino opponents. At the very least, it increases the likelihood that East Boston residents will vote no on Nov. 5. At most, we may be able to look forward to delays and lawsuits for years to come.

I was particularly struck by the accusation — reported by Mark Arsenault in The Boston Globe — that Caesars separated one wealthy gambler from his money by keeping him liquored up and plying him with painkillers. I know nothing about the details of that accusation. But it actually fits well with the business model for casinos.

I’ve flagged this before, and it’s worth flagging again: according to Michael Jonas of CommonWealth Magazine, casinos could not survive if it weren’t for the problem gamblers who provide a disproportionate share of the revenues. Jonas explains it this way:

Just how much of the revenue casinos bring in is from the losses of those with gambling problems? One of the most thorough studies of this issue was done in 2004 in Ontario, where researchers had a sample of residents maintain diaries logging their gambling expenditures. The study, prepared for the government-supported Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, estimated that 35 percent of Ontario casino revenues were derived from moderate to severe problem gamblers. Such gamblers accounted for 30 percent of revenue from casino table games and a whopping 62 percent of revenue from slot machines.

I remain appalled that Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature legalized casinos and slots, which are associated with higher rates of crime, divorce and suicide. But I’m optimistic that these social parasites can be stopped one at a time.

Below is a statement from No Eastie Casino:

EAST BOSTON, Mass. — Oct. 19, 2013 — For more than a year, No Eastie Casino has pushed the City of Boston and Suffolk Downs to share more information about Suffolk Downs’ proposed Caesars Entertainment Resort. After ignoring repeated calls for greater transparency and concerns about Caesars’ solvency raised by East Boston residents, on Friday Suffolk Downs dropped the operations partner it chose in 2011 to run a casino in East Boston, Caesars Entertainment, only after state investigators informed them that Suffolk Downs likely would not pass the background check if Caesars stayed on. The Boston Globe reported that a number of concerns were brought to Suffolk Downs’ attention, including Caesars’ alleged business ties to organized crime.

But East Boston casino opponents say the stunning news late Friday demonstrates that residents cannot trust Suffolk Downs when it comes to whom they choose to bring into the neighborhood, said No Eastie Casino co-chair Celeste Myers.

“As recently as two months ago, Suffolk Downs owner Joe O’Donnell stated that Caesars was ‘as professional as they come,'” Myers said, pointing out Suffolk Downs’ frequent assertion that it shares Caesars’ values. “Clearly, they did not do due diligence in vetting Caesars — a company with which they have had a relationship since 2011 — and only ended the relationship when forced to do so.”

She added that Suffolk Downs has now picked two corporations, Caesars and Vornado Realty Trust, that have been unable or unwilling to pass background checks. In March, Vornado put its 19 percent stake in the casino plan into a blind trust after the majority of its executive team refused the state’s mandatory background checks. To our knowledge, Vornado has not divested completely from the casino partnership and voters remain in the dark about who will pick up its nearly one-fifth share in the project.

Caesars’ sudden departure also raises serious questions about the value of the City’s and Suffolk Downs’ host community agreement and shows that the promises in the mitigation agreement were made to be broken. Many key elements of the mitigation agreement-including key components of the jobs and small business plans-were tied to Caesars’ employee practices and Total Rewards programs. (Download our 16-page mitigation analysis here.)

No Eastie Casino leaders on Saturday formally called on Suffolk Downs to withdraw its casino application, in light of the information that emerged late Friday, and to share full details about their casino plans — including what they knew about Caesars and when they knew it — with the community at large.

“Now, more than ever, our neighbors and voters are seeing the glaring problems in the Suffolk Downs casino plans and the flaws in transparency that have plagued this fight from the start,” Myers said. “We hope Suffolk Downs and the City of Boston do the right thing and withdraw their support of this project. Until they do, our campaign will continue to reach out to and educate voters until we are victorious on Nov. 5.”

Muzzle winner gets its final comeuppance

How sleazy do you have to be before you’re found to lack the morals necessary to operate a slots parlor? Very sleazy indeed. Mark Arsenault of The Boston Globe reports that former Plainridge Racecourse president Gary Piontkowski’s habit of stuffing cash into his pockets — $1.4 million in total — was just too much for state regulators to overlook.

Last month, we bestowed a 2013 WGBH News/Portland Phoenix/Providence Phoenix Muzzle Award upon the racetrack for its unsuccessful attempt to abuse the libel laws in order to silence a local blogger who opposed a slots license for the Plainville facility.

And today, in his Boston magazine blog, David Bernstein lays out Piontkowski’s relationship with former senator Scott Brown.

None of this should surprise anyone. It’s simply what you get with large-scale organized gambling. No casinos. No slots.

No slots in Danvers. (No slots anywhere.)

pottersville

I was hoping this would go away so quickly that I wouldn’t have to write about it. But today Ethan Forman of The Salem News reports that local business leaders think a 24-hour, seven-day slots parlor in Danvers would just be a wicked awesome way of boosting the North Shore economy.

No surprise that our local Mr. Potters are excited about the idea of turning my town into Pottersville. But it looks as though those of us who oppose casinos and slots are going to have to mobilize — or at least get ready to mobilize.

To that end, I’ve started a Facebook page, No Slots in Danvers, and I’m going to keep a close eye on developments. The last thing we need is 1,250 slot machines behind the Liberty Tree Mall, abutting a residential neighborhood.

As those of you who’ve been reading Media Nation for a few years know, I was a staunch opponent of plans to build a casino — at one time billed as the world’s largest — in my hometown of Middleborough. That plan collapsed, fortunately, and I hope this one will, too. At the very least, I find it hard to believe that the proposal would win a townwide referendum, no matter how many goodies the developers promise.

Just say no to slots and casinos.

Three from the Sunday Globe

Three quick observations:

• Last year I gave a Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award to Max Kennedy for refusing to release Robert Kennedy’s papers. Bryan Bender, who did the original reporting on this story, is back, and finds that nothing has changed. What are the Kennedys trying to hide?

• The Springfield Republican has had to muzzle its editorial page as the paper’s owner ponders the possibility of selling the property to build a casino, according to Mark Arsenault. It probably won’t matter much — the Republican was pro-casino even before the possibility of cashing in came along. Still, this is an interesting conflict of interest to say the least.

• Sally Jacobs writes a long feature on U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s troubled childhood — and finds that his aunt bitterly disputes his account of how she treated him. I hope Brown today is reflecting on the propriety of questioning people’s recollections of their backgrounds. Life is complicated.

Neighbors reject Taunton casino plan by 2-1 margin

As you may have heard, Taunton voters overwhelmingly approved a tribal casino in a nonbinding referendum on Saturday. But that’s not even close to the whole story.

Residents who live closest to the proposed casino voted even more overwhelmingly against it. According to Cape Cod Times reporter George Brennan, the city voted  7,693 in favor and 4,571 opposed — but “in the two East Taunton precincts where the Mashpee Wampanoag casino is planned, voters rejected it by nearly a 2-1 margin.”

In the Taunton Gazette, reporter Christopher Nichols posts the numbers:

Ward 4 — which contains most of East Taunton — voted against the casino proposal with 755 in favor and 1,332 opposed. Voters closest to the proposed casino site in Ward 4 Precinct B voted against the proposal, 678-350.

Yet, with regard to Boston’s two daily newspapers, we’re already seeing a repeat of 2007. That’s when the big news was that Middleborough had voted in favor of a deal the selectmen had cut with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a casino in that town (big news!), and then turned around and took a decisive but nonbinding vote against the casino itself (shhhh … pay no attention).

The proposed Middleborough casino eventually fell apart, but town officials are still hoping there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Alice Elwell of the Brockton Enterprise has the latest.

So what happened with the Taunton vote? On Sunday, the Globe’s Mark Arsenault reported on Taunton’s vote in favor of the casino — but made no mention of the results in East Taunton. The Herald did better, publishing Brennan’s Cape Cod Times story (Herald publisher Pat Purcell runs several of Rupert Murdoch’s regional papers, including the Times). But today, the Herald offers a follow-up by Chris Cassidy and Laurel Sweet that omits the vote of the opposition in East Taunton.

Arsenault, in his Globe story, closes by noting that Taunton is a long way from actually hosting a tribal casino. Because of a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Carcieri v. Salazar, the Mashpee won’t be able to build a tribal casino in Taunton without an act of Congress. Good luck with that.

The Taunton vote demonstrates, once again, that no one wants to live next to a casino. Nor should they have to.

A final casino note: Former Boston mayor Ray Flynn turned out on Saturday to lend his support to East Boston residents opposed to a casino that’s been proposed for Suffolk Downs.

Given that the East Boston plan is already being portrayed as a done deal, it will be pretty interesting to see how a battle between Boston’s former and current mayors (Tom Menino supports the proposal) will play out.

Photo (cc) by s_falkow and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

At casinos, compulsive gambling is the whole idea

The appalling decision by state leadership to build three casinos and a slot parlor in Massachusetts is a disaster-in-the-making on many levels. Studies have shown that proximity to casinos correlates with increases in crime, divorce, even the suicide rate.

And here’s another. Though compulsive gamblers may make up a small proportion of the population (between 1 percent and 5 percent, depending on which study you look at), casinos are utterly dependent on those folks coming in and blowing the grocery money. Michael Jonas of CommonWealth Magazine writes:

Just how much of the revenue casinos bring in is from the losses of those with gambling problems? One of the most thorough studies of this issue was done in 2004 in Ontario, where researchers had a sample of residents maintain diaries logging their gambling expenditures. The study, prepared for the government-supported Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, estimated that 35 percent of Ontario casino revenues were derived from moderate to severe problem gamblers. Such gamblers accounted for 30 percent of revenue from casino table games and a whopping 62 percent of revenue from slot machines.

Jonas also quotes Gov. Deval Patrick as saying, once again, that the legislation now hurtling through the Legislature will include money for treating compulsive gamblers. But there’s no logic to Patrick’s position. Within the casino industry, compulsive gambling is not a bug — it’s a feature, vital to its business model.

What’s taking place on Beacon Hill right now will live in infamy. Patrick’s legacy as governor will be his leading role in foisting this miserable enterprise upon the public.

Also: Harvey Silverglate writes in the Boston Phoenix about his angst over being a libertarian who opposes casinos and slots. As he notes, there’s nothing libertarian about what will take place in Massachusetts: this will be a government-run operation from the start.

If you really want to gamble, maybe we can start taking bets on which ex-legislator will be hired as the $150,000-a-year executive director of the Massachusetts Gambling — uh, Gaming Commission.

Three for Thursday

There’s so much going on this morning that I can barely keep up. And I really need to return to (shhh!) the Book. So here’s a quick roundup, to be followed by a more important matter, and then (I tell myself sternly) that’s it for today.

  • Don’t miss Michael Levenson’s splendid Boston Globe article on the millions of dollars being spent on Beacon Hill by developers looking to build casinos in Massachusetts. Levinson wins extra bonus points for referring to “gambling interests” rather than the PR-ish “gaming interests” so beloved by those trying to improve the image of their miserable industry. As Dick Hirsch says of “gaming”: “They are trying to wrap a noxious substance in an elegant package in order to conceal its toxicity, deodorize it and tell us what a benefit it will be.”
  • Very sad news about Steve Jobs’ decision to step down as Apple’s chief executive. Forgive me if I’ve said this before: he may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard, always keeping his focus on what users want – and even on what they don’t know they want. He is a visionary and quite possibly a genius. The must-read is this essay by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. Don’t skip the video. Though it is universally believed that Jobs is gravely ill, I hope he can contribute to Apple in a reduced capacity for a long time to come.
  • Best wishes to Jim Romenesko, the indefatigable media blogger who announced his semi-retirement yesterday. Starting in the 1990s, Romenekso – first at his own site, later for the Poynter Institute – has been linking to (and offering short, intelligent commentary on) every bit of media news and gossip he can find. Especially in the early days of the Internet, he gave alt-weekly types like me a small national readership. Here’s a piece I wrote about him for the Boston Phoenix in 1999, when he announced the move to Poynter. And here’s a Phoenix article written by Mark Jurkowitz in 2005 on the dread “Romenesko effect.” Good luck to Jim, the best friend obscure media columnists like me ever had.

Yes, casinos hurt local businesses

The Boston Globe’s Jenifer McKim today reports that Robert Goodman, an expert on casino gambling, believes a proposed casino and slot-machine emporium at Suffolk Downs would harm local businesses.

“No serious economic impact analysis has been done in Massachusetts,” Goodman tells McKim. “More money is going to be sucked out of the local economy.”

But aren’t casinos supposed to be good for the economy?

In fact, the negative effect described by Goodman is so well-known that Glenn Marshall, the disgraced former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, reportedly promised business owners in Middleborough that he would give them money to offset the harm that would be done by the casino the tribe had proposed for that town. (The tribe recently dropped the long-dormant Middleborough scheme in favor of a site in Fall River.)

According to a story by Alice Elwell in the Enterprise of Brockton in September 2007, Marshall had promised local business leaders that he would “help” if the casino harmed restaurants in town. Selectman Wayne Perkins was quoted as saying this would have taken the form of “comp points” — scrip given to casino visitors that could be used at Middleborough businesses, which in turn could trade them in for cash. (The original link seems to be broken, but I wrote about it at the time.)

A casino is a self-contained economic machine that sucks money out of customers who might otherwise spread it around at local businesses, a fact Marshall backhandedly acknowledged in promising “comp points.” It then funnels the cash to high-rolling investors — and, of course, to the state, which is why Beacon Hill is now on the verge of approving this monstrosity.

The Globe’s corporate cousin, the New York Times, editorialized on Monday:

Casinos are a magnet for tainted money and promote addiction, crime and other ills….

The state’s politicians should also stop chasing gamblers. At a time when casino revenue is slumping across the country, it doesn’t even make economic sense. They need to make hard decisions on taxes and spending, and focus on developing stable industries, improving education and working their way to growth. If they keep holding out for a false jackpot, everyone will lose.

The Globe editorial page, by contrast, has been consistently if cautiously pro-casino. Too bad. As the region’s dominant media player, the Globe could exercise some real leadership on this issue.

Photo (cc) by Jamie Adams via Wikimedia Commons.

Middleborough casino fiasco is finally, officially over

I’m not sure when I first wrote that the “resort casino” the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe wanted to build in Middleborough would never come to pass. But here’s something I wrote on Aug. 28, 2007, shortly after Middleborough residents approved a deal with the tribe (widely reported) and also voted to advise officials that they did not want a casino built in town (barely reported):

Obviously the Middleborough casino will never be built. The big-money players will move on once they realize that this will be tied up in the courts for years. Dissident tribal members are already suing in federal court. Middleborough casino opponents vow to keep fighting.

Today Cape Cod Times reporter George Brennan writes that the tribe has finally, officially dropped its Middleborough proposal and is instead focusing on Fall River. An announcement is scheduled for this afternoon. Brennan, in turn, cites a report by Michael Holtzman in the Fall River Herald News that the city received a comitment letter from the tribe last Friday.

Middleborough’s gain is Fall River’s loss, and I hope folks in that economically distressed city can see through the spin and knock this down. (Holtzman notes that the casino proposal has a long way to go.) But I am nevertheless glad to see that the town where I grew up is no longer in any danger — not even theoretically — of hosting what was, at one time, intended as the world’s biggest casino.

“I’m very disappointed, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Middleborough town manager Charles Cristello tells Alice Elwell of Brockton’s Enterprise.

Mr. Cristello, your town just got saved.