Gov. Deval Patrick, who is trying to foist three gambling casinos on the state, wants to make it a criminal offense — punishable by up to two years in prison and a $25,000 fine — to place a bet over the Internet. Crime, traffic and the associated disruption caused by a casino coming to your town? No problem. Gambling in the privacy of your home? Problem.
“If you were cynical about it, you’d think that they’re trying to set up a monopoly for the casinos,” David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, tells the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser.
Well, by all means, let’s be cynical about it. What could this possibly be about other than making sure the state scoops up every available nickel produced by gambling?
Among other things, Patrick’s go-straight-to-jail provision has managed to alienate U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who had spoken in favor of Patrick’s casino plan just recently. Frank tells the Globe, “Why is gambling in a casino OK and gambling on the Internet is not? He’s making a big mistake. He’s giving opponents an argument against him.” Nice work, Governor.
In two other casino-related developments, it appears that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is moving backwards in its bid to build a casino in Middleborough.
First, Boston Herald reporter Scott Van Voorhis writes that federal regulators may move to take some of the allure out of the high-stakes video bingo parlors that Indian tribes are allowed to open even in the face of state opposition. The idea is that such bingo games would have to look more like bingo and less like slot machines. This could damage the argument advanced by some pro-casino forces that if Patrick’s proposal is defeated, the Mashpee will open a sort-of casino anyway.
Van Voorhis’ piece is a follow-up to a story first broken on Oct. 29 by George Brennan in the Cape Cod Times.
Second, tribal leaders have reportedly been talking out of both sides of their mouths on the matter of whether they will enter the Patrick sweepstakes or instead pursue their gambling plans under the federal route. Boston magazine’s Jason Schwartz explains.