Tag Archives: Middleborough

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.

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.

Albert H. Shaw, 1913-2010

Al Shaw in 1977

My uncle Albert Shaw lived long enough to be able to look me in the eye and tell me in all seriousness, “I wish I was 92 again.” He was 96 when he said that. He died on Dec. 23, just a few weeks after his 97th birthday, and a small group of family members and friends said goodbye at the Massachusetts Military Reservation in Buzzards Bay last Thursday.

I had several uncles, but Al — one of five siblings on my mother’s side — was the only one who lived nearby when I was growing up. He was someone I saw a lot of when I was a kid. He took me golfing. He also was a frequent presence at the family cottage in Onset, where, in 1977, I took the picture of him that you see here. Along with my grandmothers, he was the one member of my extended family who was actually a part of my life.

Al grew up in Middleborough, in the same house in which I was raised two generations later. He was born on Dec. 7, 1913, and was in the Army when, on his 28th birthday, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. He served as a communications officer in Burma, walking miles down the road to the hospital after he contracted malaria. Following treatment, he returned to his post.

Like many people from his generation, intelligence and ability did not necessarily lead to a good job. In mid-life he trained as a draftsman, and worked for a while at a high-tech company in the Merrimack Valley. But one of the periodic tech washouts claimed his job, and he ended up spending the latter part of his working life as a custodian at the Brockton VA Hospital. Yet he was smart enough to have done just about anything he put his mind to, and his reading was deep and eclectic. As recently as this fall, he was telling me in great detail about an article he’d read in the Wilson Quarterly about the Chinese economy.

Following a divorce, Al spent many years living with a couple with whom he was friendly — a friendship that was tested after the husband became totally disabled in a workplace accident. Al stayed on for many years, providing them with invaluable assistance.

In recent years, Al lived on his own in an apartment in Lakeville. He was in remarkably good health until very late in his life, golfing well into his 80s and taking part in a bowling league as recently as this past spring. (And kicking butt.) He only gave up driving around Labor Day. My wife, kids and I spent Thanksgiving with him at his home. He was feeling well and was in good spirits that day.

Yet his congestive heart failure was becoming increasingly difficult to manage. When he landed in the hospital in early December, he decided it was finally time to move to a nursing home. Unfortunately, he had barely begun to settle in when he fell and broke his hip. He died in surgery, his heart unable to withstand the effects of anesthesia.

Al lived a long, healthy life, and he had been making it clear for some time that he was ready to go. He wasn’t a Woody Allen fan (nor am I), but to paraphrase Allen, Al wasn’t afraid of dying; he just didn’t want to be there when it happened. He got his wish. I will miss him, but I’m glad my kids got to know him.

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.

Big news about “Little People”

I am very excited to announce that my hometown of Middleborough has adopted my book on dwarfism, “Little People,” as its high-school summer-reading book. Students and teachers at Middleborough High School (from which I graduated in 1974) will be asked to read “Little People” and be prepared to discuss topics such as genetics, history and disability throughout the school year. I’ll be visiting a few times.

When Doug Haskell, who chairs the MHS English department, told me about the selection a couple of months ago, I had to scramble. The book has been out of print for several years. There was also no reliable way of estimating how great demand would be  — the full text of the book is already available online for free, and no doubt a lot of students will try to read it that way.

So, working with Bronwen Blaney at the Harvard Book Store of Cambridge, I put together a print-on-demand paperback edition, thus eliminating the need to print a bunch of copies that may or may not sell. Not to go too heavy on the marketing, but I was pleased with how well it came out — it really looks and feels like a trade paperback. The price, $16, is pretty reasonable, given that the list price of the hardcover edition was $25.

I have completely retooled the website using WordPress.com. I’ve also created a Facebook group, where I hope students, teachers and anyone else who is interested will feel free to discuss “Little People” and issues related to dwarfism.

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.

Getting more than he’s betting on

Writing in the Boston Globe, Paul McMorrow raises an important point about Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s quest to build two casinos and install slot machines at four racetracks.

Right now, the Mashpee Wampanoag bid to build a casino in Middleborough is being stymied mainly because casino gambling is illegal in Massachusetts. Once it’s legalized, the door is open not just for the Middleborough location, but for other tribal casinos as well. McMorrow writes:

In DeLeo’s rush to appease the building trades and carve out some action for the two racetracks in his district, the speaker of the House is setting the table for a gambling expansion in Massachusetts that has the potential to be far broader than anything he’s pitching. He’s opening the door to new gambling halls on Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape, in Middleborough and Fall River. It’s also something neither he, nor anyone else on Beacon Hill, can control.

And though McMorrow doesn’t say it, you can be sure that officials in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut won’t stand pat if casinos are built in Massachusetts.

It is sad that none of the major candidates for governor — not Gov. Deval Patrick, Republican Charlie Baker nor independent Tim Cahill — opposes this financial and social boondoggle-in-the-making.

How casino gambling nearly destroyed a family

Gail Spector, editor of the Newton Tab, has written a must-read column on how casino gambling nearly destroyed her family because of her late father’s gambling addiction. Always a problem, his addiction raged out of control once the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort and Casino, in upstate New York, opened near the town where they lived.

Spector’s personal story is well-told and deeply moving, and I don’t want to spoil it by trying to excerpt it here. I will instead go with her conclusion:

Preying upon and purposefully aggravating the torment and destruction that gambling addictions cause families is cruel. Further justifying it as a means to create local aid for communities is devious and shameful.

Unfortunately, it appears that is precisely what the Massachusetts House is on the verge of doing — to be followed, you can be sure, by the Senate and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie is taken for a ride with some happy gamblers who took a bus from South Station to Foxwoods. Among the people whom MacQuarrie meets is Curtis Harris of Cambridge, “a self-described poker professional.”

Harris, 34, tells MacQuarrie he has a system that brings in $100 a day, and that he supports his two children with his gambling. “This outing went well,” MacQuarrie writes. “Harris, who played nonstop from 2 p.m. Friday until noon Sunday, left with $710.”

Call me a cynic, but I’m guessing there are some aspects to Harris’ story that he withheld from MacQuarrie. The reason they say the house always wins is because the house always wins. And I don’t think making it easier for Harris gamble on his children’s future is going to make things any better for his family — to say the least.

Just vote “no” on expanded gambling

I just sent the following e-mail to my state representative, Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers:

Dear Ted —

I’m writing today to urge you to vote “no” on Speaker DeLeo’s bill to expand legalized gambling in Massachusetts. The negative effects of casinos and slot machines would be far greater than could be justified by any increased revenue the state would receive — revenue that, in all likelihood, would not be nearly as great as proponents predict.

Not only would casinos in Massachusetts be a bad idea in and of themselves, but they would almost certainly lead to expanded gambling in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

I first became aware of the hazards of casino gambling when a few wealthy investors used the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to put forth a plan in Middleborough, the town where I grew up, to build what at one time was described as the world’s largest casino. As you probably know, that effort was fraught with corruption. Glenn Marshall, the tribal leader, ended up going to prison.

Studies have shown that casinos lead to increased crime and a higher divorce rate, and have even been linked to an increase in suicides. I urge you to get the facts from United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, which is online at www.uss-mass.org.

Sincerely,

Dan Kennedy
Danvers