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

Time for DiMasi to just say no

House Speaker Sal DiMasi can save Deval Patrick’s governorship. He can do it by sending the governor’s casino-gambling plan to the floor as soon as possible and then killing it once and for all. Patrick will thank him some day — say, in 2010, if he chooses to run for re-election.

Patrick’s obsession with casinos and the money they will purportedly bring has reached a dangerous stage. As Frank Phillips reports in today’s Globe, and Casey Ross in the Herald, Patrick made longstanding rumors come true by including non-existent casino revenue in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that will begin next July.

I am not going to get into a debate over whether or not the state needs the money. Casino gambling’s social ills have been well-documented, and would be exceedingly bad news for the state. DiMasi has dropped numerous hints that he wants to defeat Patrick’s three-casino plan, but has been wary of acting too abruptly — perhaps sensitive to comments he made early in Patrick’s term that were seen as disrespectful. Well, it would be better for all concerned, including Patrick, to put this sorry chapter behind us once and for all.

If there’s a budget gap, some combination of spending cuts and tax increases will take care of that. It is not up to those of us who oppose casino gambling and the crime, addiction, divorces and suicides they create to solve the state’s fiscal problems. The state and local tax burden in Massachusetts is in the middle of the pack nationally, so the problem can’t be so horrible that reasonable people shouldn’t be able to solve it.

I also had to laugh when I read that Patrick proposes to use gambling revenues to offset an anticipated shortfall in state Lottery receipts. Casino gambling will almost certainly do considerable harm to the Lottery, making this nothing more than a shell game.

Mr. Speaker, just kill it now.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    DK – there’s LOTS of interesting things in the Governor’s second budget.He’s also bumping state employee health care contributions from 15% to 25% for all, not just new hires (mind, this should have been done years ago).NAGE sent out an email to thousands of state workers – “Gov. Patrick will try to raise the contribution rate for state employees. This is a continuation of Gov. Romney’s policies.”DEVAL IS REALLY MITT’S PUPPET!! Who Knew?

  2. Ben

    Dan — What’s your take on the state conducting the lottery? Don’t recall any missives over the years on the collateral damage from that enterprise.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    You know what, Ben? The Lottery started when I was 12. I didn’t have a blog then. More to the point, the Lottery and casino gambling are similar in the way that beer and crack cocaine are similar. Beer and crack can both get you off, but let’s get real.The Lottery obviously does not have a traffic impact anywhere. If it contributes to crime, I’m not aware of it. I do know that there are addiction issues, especially around scratch tickets and Keno, which, in a perfect world, probably shouldn’t exist.But there’s a huge difference between banning an activity that’s been around for some 35 years and approving an activity that isn’t here now, that has been proven to be harmful, and that no one is clamoring for other than the governor and the unions.

  4. Anonymous

    Dan, Thank you for staying on top of this issue and not being obtuse like so many people in this state.If casinos were the answer to budget woes they would of been welcomed a long time ago. Other holes in the system like welfare and overspending need to be mended before a new revenue stream comes in. This way we aren’t spending ten times what we should and make the hole bigger. Liberal spending gets us into holes,then we say oh sh*t we don’t have any money to pay the bills. And I’m not even a rocket scientist.

  5. Anonymous

    Dan, interesting comments. I’m not a gambler and have no particular interest in seeing a casino in Massachusetts. However, I’m troubled by your somewhat casual reference to the fact that “spending cuts and tax increases” will take care of any budget gap. The legislature’s commitment to reduce expenditures seems dubious at best since tax increases have historically been the instrument of choice for balancing the budget. I am aware of the various ills associated with casino gambling but if nothing else, I applaud the governor with at least considering an alternative to the taxpayer’s pockets.

  6. Happy or Cranky Cindy

    Here here for killing Casinos.Tho’ I’m not convinced cuts are the way to go, given our state’s penchant for cutting social services/education first… nonetheless, here here for casino death.As for taxpayer pockets, I’m one of those weird and wholly people who is happy to pay taxes. I like having paved streets, and a sewer system that takes the yuckies away, and a educational system that (sometimes) provides appropriate education, and a fire department that doesn’t require a personal check before they spray water on my house. I like having someone intervening with the kid that’s getting beat next door, and someone else plowing the snow, and someone else studying how to cure or prevent breast cancer and HIV. I like having a social worker staffing the homeless shelter, and professionals supporting mentally ill and addicted people in my community.Casinos would only add to the burden of many of the tax-supported services listed above.but that’s just me.

  7. Bellicose Bumpkin

    RE lottery versus casinos.As someone that is very involved in fighting casinos, we get this sort of “argument” all the time. In an ideal world – lotteries would go away to as they are nothing more than a tax on people who failed basic arithmetic. In the real world you have to pick your battles. Casinos are currently illegal. Asking anti-casino people about lottery tickets or bringing back prohibition is a weak minded distraction from a very serious and very real problem – the incidence and severity of problem gambling will increase significantly with the advent of casino gambling.Comparing slot machines with the lottery is truly like comparing crack with aspirin.

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