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Patrick’s winning hand

Why the governor’s casino plan is aces
By EDITORIAL  |  September 19, 2007


Casino gambling may not solve all of the fiscal challenges facing Massachusetts, but it is the best idea currently on the table. And Governor Deval Patrick seems determined to maximize its advantages.

Patrick’s plan to license three high-end casinos across the state is designed to inject $2 billion into the economy over the next decade and to create 20,000 new jobs. As critics of the plan mount their attacks, the public should keep this question in mind: what do casino foes suggest instead of gaming? Higher taxes? Fewer services? Those are not realistic options.

After the state creates a regulatory superstructure for casinos, beefs up police in the communities where they are to be built, and bolsters social services for the manageable increase in societal problems that are known to follow any expansion of gambling, an annual amount of approximately $400 million will be made available for long-delayed projects, such as repairing the Commonwealth’s crumbling infrastructure. On top of that cash flow, an additional $600 to $900 million will be generated by the auction of 10-year gaming licenses. As time goes on, reasonable objections will no doubt arise in connection with these projections. But as of today, the game plan appears as sound as it is bold.

Considered as a piece of political craftsmanship, Patrick’s proposal is particularly shrewd. It pressures the Wampanoag Indians to throw in their lot with the state, allowing them to develop a casino now and in such a way that would benefit Massachusetts’s taxpayers more than if the tribe were to wait for federal approval to build outside of Patrick’s proposed structure.

In fact, the Wampanoags would need the approval of the US government if they chose to build on their recently purchased Middleborough site, since it is not traditional tribal land. There was a time when the Wampanoags might have been able to count on the government’s rubber stamp, but those days are over. The Bush administration has placed a moratorium on such requests for the remainder of its time in office. That means that if the tribe chooses to wait for a new White House occupant, rather than to accept the promise of a license, it will be gambling with future returns worth mega millions.

As strong and as sensible as Patrick’s proposal appears, we should still expect heated debate and stiff opposition on Beacon Hill. Get ready for the argument that casino jobs are not good ones. That’s nonsense. First of all, new casino jobs are better than no new jobs. And new traditional manufacturing jobs are just not an option in this state, at least in any meaningful numbers. In fact, high-paying blue-collar jobs are expected to remain static at best, whether or not Massachusetts casinos are built. But the hospitality industry — and that is how casino should be viewed — has a proven track record of providing good jobs.

Will all of these casino jobs be great? No. But a lot of them will. Why, after all, are low- to middle-level jobs at facilities such as Boston’s new convention center considered socially acceptable while those at a casino are not? One answer is certainly snobbery. And you can be sure that one group not looking down at these new jobs is the unions.

Massachusetts has had state-sponsored gambling in the form of the lottery for 36 years. Despite any alleged stigma, Harvard and MIT have not left for greener pastures, the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood are thriving, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has built new headquarters to international applause, and the Museum of Fine Arts is moving vigorously ahead with its planned expansion. This, of course, is just an exaggerated way of saying that those who worry about what casinos will do to the fabric of Massachusetts’s culture are, well, just exaggerating fears.

What is not exaggerated is the possibility of recapturing the $800 million to $1 billion that researchers estimate Bay State residents spend each year gambling in Rhode Island and Connecticut. That Patrick’s casino plan would recycle the windfall into the local economy should be the foundation on which the merits of the plan are debated.

Aside from a failure of political imagination to grasp the opportunity that Patrick’s plan presents, another hazard is on the horizon: racetrack owners. For reasons of understandable self-preservation, local tracks will try to muscle in and snag a piece of the gambling action. The legislature would be wise to resist this.

Properly regulated casinos offer a practical solution to a practical set of political problems. It would be imprudent to dilute the potential impact of Patrick’s plan by making side bets on slots in tracks that are probably no longer economically viable.

  • No side bets
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  Topics: The Editorial Page , Deval Patrick , Gambling , Economic Indicators ,  More more >
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Patrick’s winning hand
This article is pure casino boostering. I'd advise the author to take a long (or even short look) at the costs versus benefits of casinos. This is merely a pre-emptive cheap attack on anti-casino groups without any real information to back up it's overly optimistic picture of casinos
By bumpkin on 09/20/2007 at 8:44:51
Patrick’s winning hand
After living in Las Vegas for more than 3 years I personally can tell you that casinos may be the cash cows they are looking for but for workers and the local population it won't be that good. Workers here in Vegas are treated with less respect all that matters is money to these casinos nothing else. The only reason I would welcome casinos in my home state is because of the experience I now have in running them. Let me state emphatically to all low income people right now YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT EVER BECOME RICH PLAYING IN A CASINO, YOU MAY WIN NOW AND THEN BUT YOU'LL BE PAYING A LOT MORE THAN YOU WIN. I for one will still enjoy my lottery games that is the one thing I miss being in the state of Nevada they have no lotter you're at the mercy of the casinos plain and simple. I got more out of the state lotter than I have ever got from any of these "high end" casinos. Trust me I know from where I speak.
By snappa on 09/21/2007 at 9:47:00
Patrick’s winning hand
Its one thing to bad mouth casinos and to rally against them but if your against gambling then may I suggest you just don't. Nobody will force anyone into a casino they can be fun, but when the fun stops and you start yelling or hitting the machine your playing its time to stop. People have to take responsibility for themselves no one else can do it for them. I enjoy playing some of the games myself and getting all the free dinners and offers but like I said before give me my state lotter the odds are much better.
By snappa on 09/21/2007 at 9:50:43
Patrick’s winning hand
I have no problem with Government controlled Casinos (state or tribal control). The problem is the "private control" that the operators have. Why do we have state controlled liquor stores but let private industry run our gambling operations? Too easy for corruption and abuse. How long before the operators come back to the state looking for tax breaks and more relaxation of rules? Suddenly the cash cow runs out of milk. Once you get hooked, and the casinos threaten layoffs, what do you do then? Casino gambling, lotteries, and liquor stores are good ways for states and tribes to bring in money but handing over such gray-economies to the private sector- regardless of the "well-regulated" intentions is a bad idea and states that have done it have paid the price.
By myhumbleopinion on 10/23/2007 at 9:37:54
Patrick’s winning hand
// False promise: Taking the shine off gambling Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007 WITH THE state budget already sporting a $21.5 million hole, and a huge bill for "adequate education" funding to come due in the near future, the prospects of expanded gambling are looking up. Several bills to expand gambling in New Hampshire already have been filed in Concord. Yet legislators will want to review the recent news reports on gambling's effects before supporting new gambling ventures here. The Illinois state attorney for Tazewell County, the site of a new casino, wrote to state legislators last week urging them not to expand gambling in the state. "Since the casino arrived in Tazewell County, we have prosecuted a number of crimes directly related to the casino and many that are indirectly related to the casino," Stewart Umholtz wrote. "I have seen the depletion of estates, children's trust funds, cemetery care funds, church funds, festival funds, and different types of government funds by individuals who have a gambling addiction." In Atlantic City, where casinos provide the major source of city funds, one-third of the city council is in prison or awaiting sentencing, and three of the last six mayors have been arrested, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week. CBS News reported last month that state-sponsored gambling does not produce the promised returns for public schools, concluding that "the big winners are not in the classroom." The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last month that in Tennessee, which has a new lottery to fund educational scholarships, "minorities and low-income people are purchasing a greater share of lottery tickets, with the scholarship money benefitting mostly white and affluent students." The New York Times reported on Sunday that "most of the money raised by lotteries is used simply to sustain the games themselves," only a tiny portion actually goes into state budgets, and that the people are often fooled into believing that their money supports education to a far greater extent than it really does. These are only the latest in a long line of stories exposing the negative side of relying on gamblers to fund significant portions of the state budget. There are plenty more where they came from, if only legislators will let themselves see the truth instead of being blinded by the shine of slot machine coins.
By Krogy on 10/26/2007 at 2:01:06

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