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

More bad news for casino proponents

Another day, another round-up of news suggesting that Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to build three gambling casinos in Massachusetts, and a bid by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to construct the world’s largest casino in Middleborough, are as happening as Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. This morning we consider four developments.

1. In the Herald, Dave Wedge reports that revenue from three casinos in Detroit is dropping like a rock, with tax money for the state of Michigan falling by $10 million over the past year. Wedge quotes a Detroit autoworker named Mark Hauswirth thusly: “They ruin the city. People blow all their money. It don’t help nobody but the people who own them.” Hauswirth knows whereof he speaks: Wedge interviewed him at, yes, a casino.

Are analogies fair? I don’t know. Building three casinos in a depressed city like Detroit is hardly the same as spreading them out in a relatively prosperous state like Massachusetts. But local casino critics like state Rep. Dan Bosley have been warning us that casinos don’t generate anywhere near as much money as proponents like to think. The Detroit experience definitely falls in line with that.

2. House Speaker Sal DiMasi disses Patrick big-time in today’s Globe, telling reporter Matt Viser that he’s endorsing Hillary Clinton for president because Barack Obama is too inexperienced — just like Patrick.

“I think Massachusetts will look at it to find out what they can see in Obama with respect to what they did with their vote for Governor Patrick,” DiMasi is quoted as saying. “To be perfectly honest, I really don’t want my president to be in there in a learning process for the first six months to a year. It’s too important.”

I’ve heard the Obama-Patrick comparison many times, and I find it borderline offensive. What do they have in common other than a political consultant (David Axelrod) and, oh yes, the fact that they are both African-American? But Media Nation is in tea leaf-reading mode today. And the leaves tell me that DiMasi has decided to take the gloves off after a period of relative calm. Since DiMasi has already made it clear that he opposes Patrick’s casino plan, his outspokenness suggests that he won’t mind killing it once and for all.

3. The Globe’s Frank Phillips informs us that Patrick “has set up a novel political fund-raising system that allows him to skirt the state’s campaign finance law by channeling big contributions through the state Democratic Party, which, in turn, has paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars of the governor’s political expenses.”

If this were a big deal, I’d expect that Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts, would be upset. Instead, Phillips writes that Wilmot “found nothing about Patrick’s strategy that prompted alarm.” Still, it places Patrick on the defense once again, hampering his ability to move his agenda forward. When it comes to casinos, that’s a good thing.

4. Finally, it turns out that the proposed site of the Middleborough casino may be the home of a rare species of turtle called the northern red-bellied cooter. Gladys Kravitz explains why it matters — although Alicia Elwell, writing in the Brockton Enterprise, reports that maybe the turtle doesn’t live there after all.

Much wrangling ahead, you can be sure.

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  1. Larz

    Yeah? Well, I’ll see one cooter and raise ya two bullfrogs! The northern red-bellied cooter — the new Bay State political power broker! Deval’s probably looking up recipes for turtle soup.— Larz

  2. Steve

    So, how come in Gladys’s link, she says the NRB Cooter is found only in Massachusetts and your link is to the Virginia Dept of Wildlife, and it shows the NRB Cooter’s range to be most of the eastern part of Virginia?Am I missing something, or is Gladys, or is the Virginia data out of date?

  3. Abe

    Your single-person anecdote (or Wedge’s) notwithstanding, the AP looked closely at the fortunes of Michigan casinos, working with professor Phil Meyer from UNC, and found (a) that they had a strong economic benefit for the state, and (b) that the expected social ills (bankruptcy, divorce, alcoholism, etc.) just didn’t happen.I’m no casino proponent or opponent. I am chagrined that you, a journalist and journalism professor, are one. And I urge you, if you’re going to offer up your opinions on what used to be a good media blog, you at least get the facts right.

  4. Anonymous

    There is more in common between the two of them than just their both being inexperienced and black. The message of both of their campaigns has been, I’m so awesome and charismatic that you should vote for me and all the gridlock and other bad things in government will melt away in front of me. As we discovered with Patrick, hope is not a tangible thing and together we can run a great campaign, and then get bogged down in the particulars of governing – without much success to show for it.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Abe: Read Wedge’s story. I pulled out an entertaining quote, but it is filled with facts and figures.

  6. Anonymous

    I’ll flip your question: As candidates (i.e., not in terms of family background and things like that), how exactly are Obama and Patrick DIFFERENT?They seem to have similar political positions and philosophies. They’re both new, appealing, charismatic candidates. They both use nearly identical Yes We Can/Together We Can rhetoric of unity, and an approach that is long on eloquence, hope, and possibility but short on specifics. If they hadn’t campaigned for each other, showing (at least to me) genuine admiration for the other, the similarities might not be so obvious–but they did.Maybe you don’t agree. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are racists, which is what your “borderline offensive” comment implies.

  7. Anonymous

    I will join those offended by you saying comparisons between Obama and Patrick are racist.As these two articles have summed up more better than I ever could, that there is little that differenciates them:

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Borderline offensive means borderline offensive. Racist means racist. Never the twain shall meet. What is it about Internet discourse — especially anonymous Internet discourse — that drives people to obsess over what they think you might have meant instead of what you actually said?

  9. cdplakeville

    That is not all Dan. Middleboro was just denied a seat at the table of the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts. Read it here first.

  10. Anonymous

    This is what you said:”I’ve heard the Obama-Patrick comparison many times, and I find it borderline offensive. What do they have in common other than a political consultant (David Axelrod) and, oh yes, the fact that they are both African-American?”Perhaps you could explain what’s even borderline offensive about comparing the two candidates?

  11. Anonymous

    “Borderline offensive means borderline offensive. Racist means racist. Never the twain shall meet.” When you and I have blogs, Anon10:10, we too can make up the rules. (Obviously the concept of “borderline” is, [ahem], “an evolving paradigm”, given conditions in CA, AZ and TX).

  12. Gladys Kravitz

    Hi Steve,Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, but I wanted to review the sources I used for my blog, and it’s been a busy week…Anyway, when I first read the article about the cooter in the Globe, it gave me hope.So I did some research and also came across the same Virginia pages you mention. It was very confusing, so I dug deeper and came across this web site for MassWildlife as part of National Heritage Foundation.This site clearly identifies the Northern Red Bellied Cooter as Endagered at both State and Federal levels.Digging even deeper, I discovered this page which has this to say about the cooter in question:RANGE: The Northern Red-bellied Cooter in is an isolated disjunct population in Massachusetts and is currently confined to ponds within Plymouth County. This population of turtles was formerly described as a distinct subspecies, P. rubriventris bangsi (Plymouth Redbelly Turtle).MassWildlife also footnotes this particular cooter as follows: This species is listed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as P. r. bangsi (Plymouth Redbelly Turtle) in 50 CFR 17.11.There is also a nifty map.Now Steve, I’m no scientist, and have never professed to be, but it seems to me that the phrase isolated disjunct population indicates that this cooter is some sort of separate sub species. And that this particular cooter is unique to Mass. But hey, I could be wrong.So like I said, I saw the cooter as a sign of hope for casino opponents – who, not unlike the gentle cooter, face the prospect of having their quality of life bulldozed by some guys with a hell of a lot more money and power than they do.And my blog was written to convey that message, along with some interesting information about this critter, for my regular readers, many of whom live in Plymouth county.Thanks for visiting,Gladys

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