Gambling storm on the horizon

Dear Friends of the Family,

As I am writing, Hurricane Irene has her sights set on New England this weekend. Though there isn’t much any of us can do to stop Irene from coming, there are ways to properly prepare (PDF from the National Weather Service). With that said, Irene is not the only storm gathering on the horizon.

The leaders on Beacon Hill have decided in the final weeks of August, when the news cycles are dominated by coverage of the hurricane and most people are worried about sending their children back to school, to announce their plan to turn Massachusetts into the next Las Vegas.

The new plan is to license three Vegas-style casinos in three regions of the state, and one slot machine-only parlor that could be located anywhere. Casino proponents crafted this bill in the hopes of getting everyone on board, something they failed to do last year when a similar bill failed. Although House and Senate leaders hatched the bill, Governor Patrick’s staff was involved, and Patrick himself has indicated that he is willing to abandon his opposition to slots-only parlors to get a casino bill passed this year.

One would think that the conviction of former House Speaker DiMasi would have led to more transparency but the deliberations that led to this new plan have been anything but open to the public.  The Boston Globe said the legislation “has been closely guarded behind closed doors, with even some lawmakers on the [Senate Ways and Means Committee] unsure what was being drafted in private.”

To paraphrase Shakespeare, whatever is rotten in Denmark has nothing on the stench emanating from the State House.

The Globe also explains that proponents of expanded predatory gambling want the additional revenue to “preserve jobs for teachers, police officers, and other local employees.” You can bet that more police officers will be needed for the spike in both blue and white-collar crime. And local employees? What about the hundreds of small businesses—the backbone of the state’s economy—that will be put out of business by the casinos?

Jon Keller, political reporter for Boston’s WBZ News, had a lot to say about the prospect of more gambling in Massachusetts in his nightly “Keller @ Large” segment. “Nationwide, casinos are not doing well. In part because of the weak economy, but also because if you look around the country, it seems the era of booming casino revenues may have come and gone.”

Keller points out that just last week, Mohegan Sun reported a five-percent drop in slot revenues over the last year, with nearby Foxwoods experiencing a 5.5 percent drop. His report continues by citing the gloomy casino picture around the country, from Connecticut to Indiana to Illinois to Nevada to Atlantic City. He is calling it a “pattern of competitive cannibalizing.”

The research numbers don’t lie. For every job a casino creates, 1.5 jobs are lost on average. And for every dollar a casino gives the state in taxes, taxpayers are saddled with an additional $3.00 in increased social costs.

We have been here before with casinos being a sure thing, and each time they have failed. It certainly looks like the House Speaker, Senate President and Governor have their ducks, I mean votes, in a row this year. But there is still time.

Take just 5 minutes to call your state representative and state senator at 617.722.2000. Tell them you oppose expanded gambling. Ask them to oppose it as well. Encourage them to work to come up with innovative ways to increase revenue, and to continue to cut the budget. Tell them that raising money off the backs of those residents who have the least amount to give is wrong.

Massachusetts can do better!

For our families,


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