Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gambling forces prepare to saddle up

The push to legalize slot machines and/or full-sized casinos in Massachusetts will begin in earnest after the holidays, and some early maneuvering has been going on among the state's political leaders. House Speaker Bob DeLeo is in favor of starting with slots, as approving, building and opening a casino would take several years, while bringing slots to the state's racetracks -- two of which, Suffolk Downs and Wonderland, are in DeLeo's district -- could happen in just a few months.

Gov. Patrick has said that he's against taking the "slots first" approach. "It’s just there is harm that is associated with gambling that has to be dealt with..." said the governor, advocating "extreme care" in the process. If he believes this, then it's legitimate to wonder why he's been such a strong advocate for legalized gaming from the start. Senate President Therese Murray, meanwhile, has said she's leaning against beginning with slots alone.

The governor recently suggested a “fresh, independent, and transparent analysis of the benefits and costs of expanded gaming," which those of us against legalized casino gambling in the state have always seen as an obvious first step. DeLeo disagreed, saying, “Because gaming has been extensively studied in recent years, I’m not sure a lengthy study in place of a bill is what we need right now.’’ Of course, he avoided mentioning that studies have had mixed conclusions on the consequences of legalized casinos.

It appears that casino gambling will come to Massachusetts in some form, barring any unforeseen events. The political leadership and the money (Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields and other out-of-state hotel and casino concerns) are behind the movement. Maybe, somewhere along the line, someone will ask the citizenry what they think.

1 comment:

James said...

If we are going to have casinos, why is not one talking about making sure that the ownership is from Massachusetts so that all of the tax and income revenues stay predominantly within the state?

I think one of the big reasons people want them is that Mass. is losing a lot of money to Foxwoods/Mohegan out of state each year in both disposable income and potential tax revenue. But if we let a big out-of-state casino operator come in and take most of the revenue, then all we are left with is some tax revenue while other shareholders from Las Vegas or elsewhere walk off with Mass. residents' income.

I think many people on the fence about casinos would be much more likely to support casinos if we could guarantee that a substantial portion of the money spent there was recirculated within the state. I would like to see a applicable provision be inserted into any casino legislation.