By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Counting chips he hasn’t cashed

The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser today repeats the not-entirely-new news that Gov. Deval Patrick may build $800 million into his budget proposal that will materialize only if the Legislature approves his socially irresponsible plan to license three gambling casinos. Viser writes:

With a big budget gap, including casino licensing money would put pressure on lawmakers to pass the governor’s proposal or find other ways to balance the budget as required by state law. When the governor introduces his budget, within three weeks, legislators will spend months reshaping it.

I continue to find it amazing that Patrick has decided to stake his reputation on this. Why? He has only guaranteed that his reputation will suffer if he loses, and suffer even more if he wins, since he’ll forever be associated with casinos and the sleaze and corruption that they bring.

I also think the governor’s proposal is a lot deader than his realizes — that, when the time is right, House Speaker Sal DiMasi is simply going to crush it and that will be the end of it. But we’ll see.

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Celebrating Bhutto’s death (II)




  1. Berto

    Maybe you’re right, Dan. Maybe we should prevent casino gambling in the state. And once we’re done with that, let’s ban drinking, too. There’s a lot of sleaze and social ill that comes from drinking. A ban on alcohol would totally work and make our society safer and more pleasant. Right?Perhaps we should allow each community the opportunity to vote on whether they’d like a casino in their town. Not a town meeting, but a binding secret-ballot as part of any new casino proposal. I live in Revere, and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that any such question would pass with regard to a casino at Suffolk Downs or Wonderland. I understand your complaint that the surrounding communities will want a say in whether a casino is placed in a nearby city, but c’mon, surrounding communities want a say in ANY project that is built nearby, be it a mall, office park, or whatever. We don’t allow it then and we shouldn’t allow it now, either. Put up the licenses, attract the bidders, get community approval using a secure balloting method, dedicate more money to gambling crisis services and enhanced policing, and let’s move on.You don’t like gambling and don’t want a casino in a town you once called home. That’s cool. But some of us do gamble from time to time, and we would like a casino nearby. Let us vote for the chance. There are casinos in 35 or so other states, and they all seem to be OK. Maybe we could actually survive with gambling at a site already dedicated to gambling?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Tell you what, Berto: If you’ll show me the respect of not comparing my anti-casino stance to wanting to do away with alcohol, I’ll show you the respect of not comparing your pro-casino stance to wanting to legalize prostitution and cocaine.

  3. Berto

    I’m sorry, you did just talk about the “sleaze and corruption” that goes along with casinos, right? How about we call that a wash and maybe talk about some of the larger points I presented?

  4. Peter Porcupine

    And now back to POLITICAL folly, which I think was the point of DK’s post…Dan – I actually mentioned this in my 2008 predictions on my blog as follows:Gov. Deval Patrick will file his second budget as Governor with a heavy reliance on gambling revenues to justify expansions in local aid, making it clear that without a casino bill, local aid will be cut. Speaker Sal DiMasi will retaliate with a House budget that guts all of the Governor’s pricey new initiatives like biotech and the housing funding, and will make it clear that the Legislature will not spend money that it does not and may never have. It will fall to Senate President Therese Murray to make peace, telling the Governor that you can’t write a budget with pie-in-the-sky revenue forecasts, and telling DiMasi that money can be found in a reasonable way. Her brokering of the situation catapults her into power, setting her up to become the Billy Bulger of the 21st century.And we won’t hav to wait until December of 2008 to see if I’m right!

  5. Steve

    Berto – let’s look at a larger point you presented. You state: “There are casinos in 35 or so other states, and they all seem to be OK”.All of them? Can you point to a source for this? Are all casinos guaranteed winners for their states?

  6. monorail

    Berto-We aren’t talking about WalMarts or malls. These are 24 hour a day attractions that increase the traffic count by 40,000 vehicles per day and suck the economic activity out of the surrounding areas.Personally, I don’t care if you choose to throw your money away at Foxwoods. That is your business. When a dishonest BOS colludes with a dysfunctional “tribe” backed by criminal investors to put one of these monstrosities in a nearby town, it is my business.When a morally corrupt Guv DeVille attempts to fund his pie-in-the-sky agenda by promoting gambling while outlawing internet gambling, it is my business.

  7. Berto

    Hi Steve,I can’t make any claim to the financial success of casinos in other states. I will say this: It’s incredibly hard for anyone to make a real prediction as to whether there’s a net economic gain or loss from any large entertainment venue (The Dig did a great story last year exploring that idea). There’s a lot of shifting of money from other entertainment sites, and that’s a real concern for those other businesses. This won’t be any pot of gold for the state, I don’t think.What I meant by “they all seem to be OK” was these other states aren’t dens of corruption and sleaze. New York doesn’t seem any scummier because of Turning Stone upstate, Connecticut hasn’t fallen apart because of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, either.My main reason for supporting casinos is, I don’t know whether the government has any role in telling citizens what is or is not morally right, be it economically, socially, or otherwise. And I swear I’m not a libertarian or Ron Paul supporter!So I think in that way, the economic question for Massachusetts is beyond the point. It doesn’t seem like a casino is going to move the needle too far one way or the other. But if there is interest in gambling, and people vote to support a casino in their community, then it’s hard to point to the potential trickle-down harm as a compelling reason to usurp people’s wishes.Clearly, this is an industry you need to deal with at arms length, as Dan’s reporting here has clearly shown. But I wouldn’t tar every casino proposal that comes to Massachusetts with that same brush. Let’s take the different proposals, personalities, communities, and problems one at a time.Again, there’s are two tracks in Revere (er, one and a half, as Suffolk Downs is split between Revere and East Boston), so it’s not like there’s no gambling happening in the state. If people want it, then tax the hell out of it and let it happen.

  8. carverchick

    What larger points are you talking about berto? That you like to gamble…or that you would like to gamble closer to home? I don’t know what news you read…but those “other States” you say are doing okay…aren’t. Perhaps you should read up on RI’s budget crisis…and Connecticut’s panic over potentail casinos in MA because they are so dependent on casino revenue. New York also has it’s issues. Some of us don’t think that becoming dependent on susposed casino revenue makes good fiscal sense.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Berto: You write, “I don’t know whether the government has any role in telling citizens what is or is not morally right, be it economically, socially, or otherwise.”So what, if anything, do you think government ought to have a say in? Let me go back to my original comment. Do you think crack cocaine should be legalized? How about prostitution? If I want to build a chemical-waste plant next to your day-care center, should government be allowed to stop me?Everything is relative. You can’t take a principled, anti-regulatory stand in favor of casinos unless you’re willing to take a principled, anti-regulatory stand in favor of everything. And once you accept the idea that government has a role, well, good Lord, why would anyone legalize an industry that will bring crime, huge amounts of traffic, and generally increase human misery in terms of divorce, suicide, and financial debt?You think I’m opposed only because of my hometown. No. The Middleborough casino is dead, and I’m not particularly worried about its springing back to life. Casino gambling is bad news, and it doesn’t matter all that much where you put it.

  10. Another face at zanzibar

    The moniker “monorail” in this thread made me think of the wisdom (especially the conman part) in the great Simpsons episode “Marge vs. the Monorail.” Any government seeking a shortcut to success (hello, Deval) should review this Conan O’Brien-penned masterpiece:

  11. monorail

    You are the first person to catch that!

  12. Steve

    Berto – It seems that you haven’t really looked closely at the effects casino gambling have on states. Have you looked at crime statistics, or increased gambling addictions, or effects of increased traffic on the roads or the cost to the state and localities the casinos will impute? How can you say the other states are “doing OK”? Compared to what?What if it turned out that those costs are greater than what the casinos pay the state for their licenses? You say it’s “incredibly hard for anyone to make a real prediction”. OK, I’ll buy that. So why should the state run the risk that it’ll be stuck with costs beyond the benefits?

  13. Berto

    OK, it’s true: I do support legalizing drugs and regulating their use as we do with alcohol. Same for legalizing prostitution and prosecuting those who sexually exploit men and women for their own gain.I’m not anti-regulatory. I’m a Democrat! I love big government! And yeah, the sentence you quoted is way too broad. The government is us, and we should have a great say in what happens in out commonwealth. But I do think that we need to draw the line at things which primarily effect the individual, aka vice. It’s a vice to smoke, it’s a vice to drink, it’s a vice to gamble. All of those things should be legal, and all of those things should be regulated tightly to prevent any harm that may come to others.If you read closely, I’ve never made an economic argument for casinos in Massachusetts. Carverchick says the other states are hurting because they counted on too much revenue from casinos. I’m sure she’s right. But that seems like bad accounting to me, and not necessarily casinos bankrupting the states. That of course leads us to today’s news, that Deval Patrick wants to make the same mistake here in Massachusetts. It’s a terrible proposal to include gambling revenue in the state’s budget. And honestly, this is going to backfire on Patrick. His bungling of this issue has all but done the job for Sal Dimasi, who will bury the casino push in the next few months. So this may all be moot.But there are issues other than economics at play here. You did pin me down on coke and prostitutes, Dan, so I’ll take the alcohol question back to you: Alcohol has caused incalculable human misery, and has had great societal cost to all of us, but it’s still legal, and we assume that most people will handle themselves in a proper way. Why is that not possible for casino gambling? People will absolutely lose money in any casino established in Massachusetts. The question is whether those people knew that walking into the place, and whether they kept their losses to the level they planned to spend. Just like you know you’re going to have a few beers at the bar, but did you keep yourself in control and take a cab home.Finally, I am shocked an chagrined to find myself pro-monorail. I have an aunt in North Haverbrook…

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Berto: We already tried outlawing alcohol. It was called Prohibition, and it was a disaster.On the other hand, absolutely no harm is being caused by our failure to legalize casino gambling.

  15. Edward Prisby

    “You can’t take a principled, anti-regulatory stand in favor of casinos unless you’re willing to take a principled, anti-regulatory stand in favor of everything.”But on the other hand, you CAN take a principaled, anti-regulatory stand against casinos, but not be anit-regulatory about everything else? Your argument cuts both ways, Dan.In fact, your argument reminds me a lot of “If I can marry another man, why can’t I marry a dog?” It’s the worst kind of analysis.There are reasons you won’t legalize prostitution and cocaine that have absolutely nothing to do with why you wouldn’t legalize a casino. The better analogy seems to me to be: If we continue to allow Keno and scratch tickets (Go Sox!), why not let someone sit at a blackjack table?Berto is right. Government should stick to things it’s good at, like providing education, a welfare state, health, and infrastructure. Whether or not I go to a casino is a personal choice.Are there “bad people” associated with Casinos? Sure. But there are bad people associated with a great many real estate transactions across Massachusetts, who don’t get Dan Kennedy’s attention because they’re building malls and condos, and not casinos.I, too, am puzzled as to why the Guv has staked his first term on an issue no one saw coming – or, at least, one he didn’t campaign on. But I’m not sure I can really be all that opposed to the idea of a casino, since I go to Mohegan Sun regularly, and enjoy it thoroughly.So, don’t pretend Berto doesn’t have a point. I applaud him for even coming here and making it.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Edward: Berto is hanging his hat on the principle that governmental regulation is and of itself a bad thing. In his perfectly deregulated world, drugs and prostitution would be legal, too.I’m not claiming to embrace any abstract principle at all. I’m a pragmatist all the way.

  17. Liam St. Liam

    Berto: You simply have no idea.Other states have them, and Massachusetts doesn’t.That’s a good thing.I lived in southeastern Connecticut from 1981 until 2001, and I saw what the two casinos — especially Foxwoods — did to the communities down there.I will grant you that they brought jobs, but with those jobs they brought more drugs, crime and community issues than ever before.Personally, I am glad Dan’s on this one, and I am more impressed because he’s just not fighting in his hometown.Dan: Don’t worry. I will disagree with you tomorrow.

  18. monorail

    I’ll be the first to decry any government regulation. I wasn’t raised here and I don’t abide by MassThink. You might be surprised how many anti-casino people don’t mind gambling. The idea that DeVille is using this to increase the size of government is sickening.Berto is right. Government should stick to things it’s good at, like providing education, a welfare state, health, and infrastructure. Whether or not I go to a casino is a personal choice.Gee, the state does such a good job with these things. You really want to give these bozos casinos, too?

  19. Berto

    Dan,I don’t want a deregulated world. Government regulation is not a bad thing. It’s a very very good thing. Just not when it regulates personal behavior, that’s all. And I think our only real point of contention here is either 1) You do think government (i.e., all of us) have the right to force an individual to not harm themselves, or 2) you disagree that casino gambling is mostly a matter of an individual harming his or herself. It’s an honest disagreement.Liam, it’s true, I didn’t live in the area, but I know plenty of people who do and did, and they said it was mostly the traffic that bothered them. With the new tunnel and Blue Line access, Suffolk Downs should be able to mitigate some of that, although the crossing at Orient Heights will need to be reworked to allow more access from 1A instead of people cutting through on Bennington Street in E. Boston.

  20. wellbasically

    The local Spa became much scummier after Keno came in. Multiply that times 2000 and that’s what a casino does. I grew up around Atlantic City, I’ve seen it happen. Atlantic City brought jobs because racism excluded the black people there from better jobs. Casinos are only an attractive option because our economic climate strangles better job growth. Casinos are Deval’s solution because he is unwilling to cut high Massachusetts taxes to get our economy moving.

  21. Anonymous

    Berto, Although I oppose gambling I think your comments are sincere. I Live in Middleboro not Revere. I grew up in Quincy and spent some time in Revere and Hull. No disrespect but the culture in Revere is very different than Middleboro, but everyone thinks a rural casino is better? You make some very good points regarding a vote in revere. And maybe Suffolk downs is a better place??? I think I’d still oppose it in Revere? But then again I cannot speak to this because I have not spent much time in the area lately.

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