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

Patrick’s casino obsession

Someday we may learn why Gov. Deval Patrick has been so willing to risk his entire governorship to fight for a proposal that will lead to increased crime, increased gambling addiction, and rises in the divorce and suicide rates — social ills all well documented by

I don’t think it’s because his wife’s law firm stands to benefit, although that is a pretty blatant conflict of interest. He must know by now that he was sold a bill of goods in terms of the number of construction jobs and the extent of the revenues that would come in. My best guess is that, deep down, he knows he made a terrible mistake, but he can’t publicly admit he’s wrong.

House Speaker Sal DiMasi, a casino opponent who’s been reasonably diplomatic about the governor’s three-casino fiasco, signals that he may finally be ready to bring down the hammer, mocking Patrick’s ludicrous claim that the casinos will create 30,000 construction jobs (Globe story here; Herald story here).

Meanwhile, consider this post at Blue Mass Group by Lynne, who blogs at Left in Lowell and who is the sort of idealistic progressive activist who propelled Patrick to his rousing victory in 2006. Lynne’s anger and disappointment are palpable, as she accuses Patrick of “lying” to advance his agenda. Specifically, she cites his factually incorrect claim that if the state fails to get out in front on the casino issue, Native American tribes will be able to move ahead anyway, with no state regulation or benefits.

As Lynne rightly points out, federal law only allows tribal facilities that are in compliance with state law. If the state does not legalize casino gambling, then the most the Native Americans can do is open a glorified bingo parlor. Lynne writes:

I know that being disappointed in your leaders is par for the course in politics. I just thought this time might be a little different. Patrick has decided to hang his hat on bringing casinos to Massachusetts, ignoring large swaths of objective information, and using fear and lies to accomplish it. But it’s this last part that I may not be able to forgive.

Why is Gov. Patrick doing this? His proposal is guaranteed to end badly: He’ll lose or, much worse, he’ll win. Is there no one who can talk sense to him?

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  1. Confused

    Something doesn’t add up. If native tribes could offer nothing more than a “glorified bingo parlor” without state approval why have you spend so much time fighting Indian gaming? And why have tribes been able to set up full-scale casinos in other states without state approval?

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Confused: I am opposed to casino gambling, period. I have no particular animus toward tribal gambling casinos. As for tribes setting up full-scale casinos without state approval elsewhere, you are mistaken.

  3. Anonymous

    If I recall correctly, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun gained full casino licenses in Connecticut because that state allows charity casino nights.As does Massachusetts.The Wampanoags might already have legal standing to build a casino.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:02: Read Lynne’s post. And learn.

  5. Lynne

    RE Charity nights, it was mentioned in comments by bumpkin that:”Casino nights will not bring in class III “See the Kickapoo case in Texas – so far the courts have upheld that states do NOT have to enter into a compact for class III gaming if they don’t want to. Texas also has charitable casino nights and they have successfully fought off Indian casinos.”Also see Carcieri v Kempthorne. There is a good chance that the Mashpee will not even get their reservation land – at least not easily.”I haven’t had time to look that up but it’s verifiable, I encourage someone to do so.Also, the answer isn’t necessarily to further legalize Class III. It could be as simple as getting rid of charity casino nights, period. I don’t think that will affect the state of the union.Thanks for the nod, Dan. I’m still furious. I’m already cynical enough (despite your characterizing me as “idealistic”) so I’m not welcoming this revelation about the Governor’s willingness to “go there.”

  6. Anonymous

    Note, Confused says “gaming.” Hmmm, who could s/he be?

  7. Man who is not a casino fan

    Dan, read the article in Boston magazine about Sal DiMasi and his frosty relationship with Patrick.After I did, I had a revelation of sorts: Patrick is hanging his hat on casino gambling precisely because it’s running counter to DiMasi. Patrick thinks that he can leverage his “grass roots appeal” enough to sway public opinion in favor of casinos, and use that as an effective override of a “difficult” Legislature.In other words, it’s the Ah-nuld Approach to governing; if the legislature won’t do what you want…take the case to the people! Fortunately for us, Massachusetts is not Kal-lee-forn-yah…errr… it’s not California, so I don’t think it’ll work.Not that Patrick can’t get public opinion behind casinos; I actually think he can accomplish that. I’m not sure he will, but after seeing the snow job pulled on Connecticut, I’m sure it’s within the realm of possibility. But the difference is that the old-boy network is far more power in Massachusetts than in California. Unless DiMasi changes his mind…which is not going to happen…then he has the political power to withstand pretty much anything Patrick’s “grass roots” effort can throw at him. And DiMasi’s personality is that he will NEVER give in to Patrick; he’ll go down to the last man just because that’s how he runs the State House; Sal’s way or highway, ya know?This is just a theory, but you have to admit…a power play makes a lot of (twisted) sense here.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Man Who: What I find particularly fascinating about this particular power play is that it’s the Statehouse insider who’s staked out the moral high ground, while the crusading reformer is on the wrong side.

  9. Rick in Duxbury

    Given today’s piece in the Globe about “Ghost Busters” at Middleboro Town Hall, has anyone considered the possibility that the building sits on an Indian burial ground? That could explain all the bad mojo attached to this misbegotten process.

  10. Anonymous

    What’s with the left’s obesession to boiling down every political debate these days to “fear” versus “hope”? Hillary Clinton, George Bush and Deval Patrick are using “fear”… It seems like a very shallow term that is basically used to describe any policy the left disagrees with. Portraying your opponents as peddaling fear is as intellectually vapid as running an entire campaign devoid of policy and based on “hope”.

  11. Gladys Kravitz

    Dan, a couple days ago, I’d had it with hearing the Governor’s “we can do this or have it done to us” mantra and wrote an exhuastive list of the reasons why casinos are NOT inevitable in Massachusetts on my blog.When you live in the shadow of a potential Indian casino, you start doing your research. Perhaps someone could float a rumor of an Indian casino in Milton.

  12. Dan

    You ask: “Why is Gov. Patrick doing this?” I don’t have a definitive answer. But it’s been interesting watching the casino issue play out down here in New Bedford. New Bedford, remember, was a stronghold of support for Patrick, and long a Democratic stronghold in general. The Democratic pols here in New Bedford seem to have casinos on the brain — it’s an idea they just can’t let go. (Which may be because we tend to have double digit unemployment down here, so even lousy casino jobs seem better than no jobs at all to the electorate.) So if the New Bedford Democratic party leaders want a casino, and if Patrick feels beholden to them, that may be pushing him to deliver casino legislation — and from down here, it sure looks like that if casino legislation goes through at the state level, there are lots of people poised to steamroller any New Bedford opposition to casinos, and build one here. Now I don’t know the political situation in Middleboro, and it may be a moot point anyway — Middleboro is geographically close to New Bedford, and that may be enough. The real point, I suppose, is that all politics is local — and in this instance, “local” apparently does not mean “Boston.” In spite of what Sal DiMasi might think.

  13. Anonymous

    New Bedford can have the casino.Middleboro will vote to give it to you.

  14. Anonymous

    Foxwoods opened because a small group of attorney’s helped create a tribe who’s last member died years before it opened. The tribe using attorney’s as their guns, threatened property owners with massive lawsuits, claiming the land they owned was part of a reservation, which was never disputed because of lack of funds. Foxwoods is the model for the mega casino, and it’s built on a foundation of lies and deception. The idea that Foxwoods and Mohegan sun just sprung up without state approval is not true. The state approved slots, or “class 3 gaming”. Now Conn. depends not flurishes on Casinos. The State of Conn. pays millions for the impacts of these two facilities. State run addiction facilties grew from 1 before the casino’s to 17 now, at 80 million a pop. Not a good bet for Massachusetts. If Class 3 gaming or slots are approved, there will be 9 or 10 casinos in this state,not 3. The tracks that have fought so hard for slot machines will be put out of business by casino’s and inian casino’s will be the big winner with no state or local taxes, smoking etc.

  15. Man who is not a casino fan

    What I find particularly fascinating about this particular power play is that it’s the Statehouse insider who’s staked out the moral high ground, while the crusading reformer is on the wrong side.That assumes that Patrick is really a “crusading reformer”.I seriously doubt that he is…the man sat on the board of Ameritrade; that’s all I need to know to consider him to be a total scumbag. He’s talked a good show but in reality, I don’t think he’s any better than most of the Republican governors we’ve had of late. I’d sure rather have Weld than Patrick. But I digress.I don’t really think either Patrick or DiMasi are staking their positions based on any real moral feelings about the issue. DiMasi knows that casinos will, at best, be of questionable benefit to the state (I personally feel they will be of significant detriment)…and they won’t help his North End constituents one bit. The latter point I think is perhaps more relevant. More importantly, though, is that Patrick HAS staked a strong pro-casino stance, and DiMasi is taking the opposite stance just to spite Patrick and “teach him how Beacon Hill really works”.

  16. liamstliam

    A point on the Connecticut situation.Since the “casino night” rules did not include slot machines — and in fact slot machines were illegal in Connecticut — the two tribes had to give a big cut of their slot-machine revenues to the state.That’s publicly reported, and it’s the only way we have even a clue as to what the casinos are making. You take the slot machine revenue and use and industry formula that says XX percent of the average casino’s wagering is on slot machines, and you can produce a fair guess.Other than that, you have no clue.

  17. Anonymous

    Patrick needs to do something to improve the private economy. Ideally he could look at business taxes and regulations to see what is hindering growth in business. His attachment to casinos is not that surprising, if I can be a republico-libertarian for a second here, because it is a big government meets big business solution. Government squashes the relatively powerless people next to the casino. The casino gets a government break, even though the small business in Middleborough continues under the same old high taxes and heavy regulatory burden. The way out of this is for the government to empower the small people to collect capital and use that power against the developers, and in favor of competitive businesses, rather than government-favored businesses. Of course poor Deval Patrick didn’t run on any of this so I don’t know why I’m bringing this up, maybe because it’s the solution for him, the poor bastard. — wellbasically

  18. Anonymous

    No slots=No casinoThe Mashpee Tribe does not own any land in Middleboro,Two investors from S.Africa do. When the Dept. of the Interior fails to grant trust status for the land, the investors will not transfer it to the tribe. So the theory of BINGO SLOTS is lost. If any indian tribe could build a casino without state approval there would already be many. Use this equation: #Tribes+#Investors= ?Casino’s.No slots=No Casinos

  19. Jeff

    Dan,While I actually agree with you 100% about the casino issue (I’m terribly disappointed in Deval Patrick) ……. it’s a bit ironic for you to ding him for being “obsessed with casinos” given the recent content of your blog. You’re not in Micky Kaus – illegal immigration territory yet for one-note blogs (and even if you get there, you’re at least on the side of the angels), but you don’t have too far to go.Course, I guess I can’t blame you. If I lived in Middleboro, I might do the same.

  20. Dan Kennedy

    I make no apology for being obsessed with what’s right in this debate. Like the late, great Jerry Williams, who risked alienating his listeners with his relentless fight against mandatory seat belts, I’ll take a chance on driving away readers in service to a greater cause. (Even though Jerry was wrong!)

  21. Paul

    Man who’s not a fan-I think you’re reading a bit too much into my article on DiMasi and Patrick. For me, it’s pretty simple. Patrick has an incredibly expensive agenda, and no clear idea how to pay for it. (Along with aides feeding him some staggeringly bad advice, but that’s another discussion altogether.) Any psychodrama beyond that is just cherries on top. -Paul M

  22. Anonymous

    the better question is why are Democratic governors all across the nation so hell-bent on pushing through casino gambling, to the point that they would threaten their governorship and their political capital?

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