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

Gambling mecca drowning in red ink

Think casino gambling is going to save Massachusetts? Here’s how Lynn Doan begins her story in today’s Hartford Courant, the leading newspaper in Connecticut, home of two resort casinos:

With the state’s three-year budget deficit forecast hovering between $6 billion and $9 billion, Democrats are pushing a tax plan that economists warn will wipe out thousands of jobs both in old-line and emerging Connecticut industries.

The tax package unveiled by the state legislature’s Democratic majority earlier this month includes three main hits to business: a 30 percent surcharge on the corporate earnings tax; an end to sales tax exemptions on some key purchases such as computer services; and stricter limits on tax credits, including the lucrative research and development credits that keep many startup businesses afloat.

As both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald report, expanded gambling is looking increasingly likely as Massachusetts officials scramble to make up for plunging tax revenues. Senate President Therese Murray is pushing for resort casinos, while House Speaker Robert DeLeo wants slot machines at race tracks.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s plan to build a casino in Middleborough quickly deteriorated into a tragicomedy of corruption and recriminations. But state officials, starting with Gov. Deval Patrick, think they know what’s best. So it’s likely that we’re going to end up with some form of expanded gambling.

Still, the facts are clear, for anyone who’s interested.

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15 Comments

  1. NewsHound

    So sad. Gambling is an economic negative. It does not create or build wealth. We need wealth. Not more over compensated, self-centered government leaders and employees, absent of course, of those who actually do work hard and earn an honest living making a meaningful contribution.

  2. Gladys Kravitz

    Dan, the first step in bringing expanded gambling to Massachusetts is to make you think it’s inevitable. It’s not. So please stop buying into it.Do you know how many people, including the Governor, newscasters, legislators, lawyers, and even my neighbors who told me with absolute authority that Indian Gaming was inevitable? Rep. Tom Calter of Kingston even publically called casino opposition ‘deluded’ to think it was anything but.Seems that they hadn’t heard of a potential Supreme Court case known as “Carcieri v. Kempthorne” (now known as “Carieri v. Salazar”) which puts the kibosh on ‘gaming’ for Tribes Federally recognized after 1934. This effectively makes Massachusetts a tribal casino free zone.I’ve got your “deluded” right here, Tom…

  3. Ryan

    After all this fighting, why give into the casinos-are-inevitable meme now? Especially after the courts expressly ruled they *weren’t* inevitable. Is it a hard fight? Of course. But there’s a *very large* majority of State Representatives who voted against slot machines. We only have to mount pressure on them to not “flip flop.” Honestly, Dan, despite DeLeo taking over the reigns, we’re not that far from victory here — one that could give us a multi-year reprieve. But if even our most vocal supporters are losing the faith, I don’t think we have much of a shot. Now’s not the time to give up or give in, but to fight even stronger. We win now and embarrass DeLeo and he may just think twice about bringing it up again, at least for a few more years.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Gladys and Ryan: I was always confident that the Middleborough casino would never be built. In fact, I gave a talk to the CasinoFacts.org folks in the fall of 2007 congratulating them for their victory. (And had the exquisite pleasure of meeting Gladys.)Sadly, this is different. We shall see, but it doesn’t look good.

  5. Carl

    Don’t get down because “it doesn’t look good.” They want us to throw up our hands and walk away in defeat. But I say NO! We say NO! Raise our hands and voices. “Power to the people!”It ain’t over til the fat pol sings.

  6. Middleboro Review

    Dan,I am forced to agree with my friends and fellow bloggers.While driving in traffic, I managed to catch some of the reporting on WBUR.The usual crowd, incapable of balancing a budget, proclaim the revenue of, what is it now? $550 million 2 years from now?Wow!Impressive revenue!Where are the costs?Massachusetts, known for its corruption and all hands being in the till, wants to invite the most corrupt industry into the state?Who is going to regulate it? It might be suggested that Diane Wilkerson is currently unemployed, stuffed the green stuff into her bra and must be an expert since she frequents Foxwoods!Unnecessary sarcasm aside, I have yet to blog about this ludicrous proposal, but allow me to call to your attention the failure of these clowns, oops! I mean well meaning elected officials who have repeatedly failed to do their homework — research — into the actual costs of gambling, or make the necessary cuts that would have costs them votes.Where we are now as a Commonwealth was known and predictable. The necessary remedies were available. During the WBUR program I couldn’t devote full attention to, there was some male spokesperson (I truly hope he’s not your rep), proclaiming “I’ve been studying this issues for ____ years and the REVENUES generated are …blah, blah, blah.”Yeah! Revenues generated!The costs are what?Cahill is up to his ears in Ethics questions. Will he follow Glenn Marshall’s lead?Promotion of Slot Machines follows a predictable pattern — INEVITABILITY being the first!Then they promote the revenues and fail to include the costs.Then they deny that they make their money through Addiction — gambling’s Dirty Little Secret they don’t want you to discuss.They also include the need to bail out the tracks that are gasping their last breaths! Poor babies!The owner of Plainridge bought into a business 10 years ago that was loosing money. Taxpayers are supposed to bail him out with slots?Taxpayers spoke when the voted to eliminate greyhound racing. ‘Nuff said! Indiana followed much the same logic of bailing out tracks with slots to keep them afloat and now are bailing out the tracks because the slots are loosing money. When the League of Women Voters says for every $1 in reveue earned by the state, the cost is $4, is this what you support without protest?Particularly worrisome is the insistence by unions of support for expanded gambling and a refusal to allow discussion and dissent.I believe that when Senator Susan Tucker calls for a “robust debate”that’s what’s required. Let’s discuss the folly of balancing the budget based on promoting addiction. Let’s discuss where the majority of the profits will go. Let’s discuss the flawed figures used to assess the flow of $$$ to CT. Was Clyde counting license plates again?For a change, let’s discuss facts and impacts, as Palmer has done. The state can’t afford to make the commitment of funding for education should those impacts prove accurate, which based on CT, they appear to be.Find a state that has prospered with casino gambling, racinos and slot parlors, and each of us just might rally around this proposal.Unfortunately, there isn’t a state that exists. Take a look at California or Nevada if you want to see the prosperity gambling engenders. Rational analysis proves that casino gambling, slot machines, slot parlors and racinos are losers. The “robust debates” Senator Tucker called for will support those assertions. Kudos to the wise electorate that voted her into office!

  7. Carl

    And don’t forget this about Plainridge, it was specifically bought by Ourway Realty to eventually bring in slots. The big shot who runs the place admitted it. Also, IGT, a maker of slots, is a 25% owner of Ourway. Ourway and IGT have spent almost $1 million lobbying in MA the past 6 years. Follow the money, folks.

  8. Jacquie

    Dan,Why is the state fight different? It’s just on a larger scale. Greed is still the core issue. We all know casinos are not the answer. Politicians are looking for a quick fix and turning a blind eye to how casinos have worsened other states.Now is the time to stand strong, speak out and not succumb to the farce of “inevitability”. The fight is mounting and we need some strong vocal support that casinos are not the answer to Massachusetts financial woes!

  9. Boston Venerable Bede

    You will see the “need for slots” in the Revere tracks to replace dog/horse racing. You will also see less conversations of glamorous casinos for slot halls to make money.The $500 million will come from locals who will not be buying goods and services in their cities and towns. We will be destroying small businesses for this “big business.”Finally, look for slots coming to stores and bars near you. As lottery revenues decrease, the KENO experience will be supplemented with state-sponsored slots. I agree, it is a disease. We will look at gambling in the future as we look at smoking now.

  10. Jacquie

    Well said BVB,I’d love to plaster your last sentence on a billboard on the x-way. The issues are identical. The promoters of both know they are creating harm (in the most vulnerable) yet could care less, it’s just all about the $$$….which is exactly why we can’t let casinos happen in this state.

  11. Gladys Kravitz

    Dan, the pleasure was all mine!But whether it’s a tribal casino or commercial slots, the industry relies on defeatist public attitudes to opposing them.That’s because the more people really understand about the industry, the less they want it in their State.But the more the public is lead to believe it’s inevitable, the less debate you’re going to see.In my region of the State, Sen. Marc Pacheco tried to stop a public meeting by the regional casino task force in Carver. Educational forums were kept out of my town – Bridgewater – the place David Flynn (D – slots) “Dean of the House” calls home.What are they afraid of? A few FACTS? A measley powerless underfunded opposition? Hmmmm…The worst thing anyone can do is to buy into their power trip. Don’t clap for Tinkerbell, Dan. She’s a bitch.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Gladys: I hope expanded gambling can be stopped, whether it’s resort casinos, slots at the racetracks or both.The reason I’m somewhat pessimistic is that, unlike the tribal casino in Middleborough, the process is straightforward. The Legislature passes a bill, the governor signs and there you have it. About the only thing you’ve got left is lying down in front of the bulldozers.Contrast that with Middleborough, where the process was so botched that there were any number of legal avenues that could be taken to stop the casino. Given the fact that the Mashpee Wampanoags won federal recognition on the basis of admitted-to bribes, there’s a good chance that they could even be stripped of their standing as a tribe if it came to that.

  13. Middleboro Review

    Dan, Many, like myself and Gladys, suddenly found ourselves about to have a detestable mega casino forced upon us by a BOS and Town Manager who negotiated an agreement and sold land behind closed doors, with no public discussion.We didn’t aspire to careers in journalism or the attacks we frequently endured that were carefully orchestrated by gambling interests.As you know, we were gavelled to silence by our very own Gavel Queen, now widely recognized for her abilities.How is the state process any different?This appears on my blog with good reason —‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret MeadMiddleboro ReviewWhen Senator Tucker called for “robust debate,” she clearly understands that casinos, racinos and slots only succeed when voters are denied the facts.It’s time to demand of our elected officials that they present, discuss and debate the facts and costs of Predatory Gambling. We need to insist on it.When it is revealed that for every dollar of revenue paid to the state, the cost is $4, the Big Dig Crowd is at it again!Predatory Gambling cannot succeed when the facts are known.

  14. Gladys Kravitz

    Dan, as far as the Tribe was concerned, all across the country, tribes have been getting away with stuff worse than the Mashpee Wampanoags for years. That’s why they and their networks of investors and lawyers were so smug and certain of a done deal.But grassroots organizations have also been working, and intelligently, for years combating this phenom and we are the lucky recipients. Like my friend Middleboro Review is fond of reminding us ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ But most importantly Dan, not only are the situations between the State and Middlboro, so is the opposition.

  15. Middleboro Review

    Dan,As my friend and fellow blogger explained in Pegged, once we take a position of protecting tracks from failing by legalizing slots, where does it end? A slot on every corner? A casino in every region?Each revenue figure is grossly overstated. Costs? Expenses? They’re either ignored or understated. Please don’t give up the fight. Slots make no sense and we can’t afford to support casino investors.

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