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.
CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas considers the sad case of state Rep. Ellen Story, an Amherst Democrat who candidly admits she reversed her longstanding opposition to casino gambling in order to please House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate president Therese Murray
CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas says that Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, by focusing on the jobs that casino gambling would bring, is trying to control the narrative in a way that is not in accord with reality. (Boston Globe story on DeLeo’s proposal for two casinos and four racinos.) Jonas writes:
The battle over casinos is always a battle to control the narrative. If the narrative stays focused on jobs and putting people who are hurting and in real economic distress back to work, proponents win. If it’s about predatory gambling and the state partnering up with rich casino moguls to pick the pockets of the lower-income residents who will disproportionately be the ones dumping their paychecks into the slots DeLeo wants installed at the state’s four racetracks (two of which are in his Winthrop-based district), the prospects could get, well, dicey.
Jonas observes that compulsive-gambling rates double in areas where casinos are located — and that problem gambling isn’t just an unfortunate byproduct of casino (and racino) gambling, but part of the business model.
The great Gladys Kravitz surveys the landscape as well, and pronounces DeLeo’s speech yesterday to be a “trifecta”: (1) experts are already saying the racinos DeLeo envisons will have to grow into casinos in order to survive; (2) New Hampshire and Rhode Island officials responded by reviving their own casino plans; and (3) the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s fading hopes of building a casino in Middleborough got a jolt of life.
It’s an absolutely miserable situation. DeLeo, Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate president Therese Murray are all on record as supporting casinos. Patrick’s most plausible opponents in the governor’s race, Republican Charlie Baker and independent Tim Cahill, are pro-gambling as well.
United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts is where you can find out everything worth knowing about casinos and slot machines.
Photo (cc) allegedly by Martha Coakley, although I doubt she took it, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
Nearly two years ago Phil Primack, writing in CommonWealth Magazine, exposed the flaws behind casino analyst Clyde Barrow’s rosy numbers. Primack explained that the UMass Dartmouth professor’s methodology consisted essentially of visiting the parking lots at Connecticut casinos and counting Massachusetts license plates. Very scientific.
Now the Boston Herald’s Jay Fitzgerald reports that Barrow is working as a paid consultant for a casino operator who wants to build in Hudson, N.H. “It’s really not much,” Barrow protests to Fitzgerald. Well, we all have to buy groceries.
At the same time, the long-dead Middleborough casino plan is showing signs of life, as federal legislation has been filed that could conceivably put the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposal back on track.
With Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo all on board for expanded gambling, these are dangerous times for those trying to save Massachusetts from the social ills that casinos would bring.
What is it that House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray like best about gambling casinos?
Is it the social dysfunction they help foster, including crime, suicide and bankruptcies? Or the fact that the promised revenues are an illusion, as the industry is in freefall thanks largely to oversaturation? (See recent reports by the New York Times and the Boston Globe.)
Casino opponents gave up a long time ago on Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick. It’s sad to see DeLeo joining them. Oh, where have you gone, Sal DiMasi?
There’s a terrific front-page story in today’s New York Times on the sagging fortunes of the casino-gambling industry. Ian Urbina reports that casinos may well be reaching the saturation point, as more and more are chasing the same number of customers.
In New Jersey, legislators have repealed no-smoking regulations in order to entice gamblers. In Illinois, there’s actually a proposal to keep gamblers liquored up with free drinks so they’ll keep blowing their money.
“When budgets get tight, expanding gambling always looks to lawmakers like the perfect quick-fix solution,” said John Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois who studies the impact of state-sponsored gambling. “But in the end, it so often proves to be neither quick nor a fix.”
Crime jumps 10 percent in areas with casinos, personal bankruptcies soar 18 percent to 42 percent and the number of new gambling addicts doubles, Mr. Kindt said. Predicted state revenue often falls short and plans frequently get tripped up by legal fights or popular opposition, he said.
With Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate president Therese “Ka-ching!” Murray expected to make a renewed push for expanded gambling this fall, the Times story is as timely as it is important.
Crime, bankruptcies, addiction — is this what our state leaders want?
Sharp commentary today from Jon Keller and the Outraged Liberal on the near-certain prospect that the Legislature will raise the sales tax by 25 percent.
As I’ve said before, we probably need a significant tax hike. Since the late 1980s, there’s been a disconnect between our demand for spending (mainly in the form of local aid) and our willingness to pay for it.
But to move ahead on a major boost in the sales tax (from 5 percent to 6.25 percent) without making some real changes in the government pension system, and without insisting that public employees make the same kind of sacrifices in salary and health benefits that private-sector workers are making, is unconscionable.
It’s also business as usual.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, in a recent op-ed piece in the Boston Globe, argued that the Legislature is on the way to reforming the way it does business. I hope that’s the case.
On the other hand, we all know that when the pressure is off, people tend to slide back into their old habits.
This is a great opportunity for Gov. Deval Patrick. Let’s hope he can rise to the occasion.
Gitell.com (left) and Media Nation at
Seth’s 40th birthday party, November 2008
I’ve been holding off until it became official, but now it can be told. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has named friend of Media Nation Seth Gitell as his director of communications. DeLeo’s gain is our loss — Seth explains why he’s giving up his widely read blog, in which he expertly covered everything from politics to food.
Seth may be best known as Mayor Tom Menino’s former spokesman, but before that we were colleagues at the Boston Phoenix. Here’s my account of our last road trip — a Rudy Giuliani event in Durham, N.H., in December 2007, which Seth covered for the now-defunct New York Sun and I covered for the Guardian.
Good luck, Seth. And here’s an excellent Web site you can bookmark for your new boss.