Thursday, April 15, 2010

The House always wins

The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring casino gambling to the state, including slot machines to racetracks. Speaker Bob DeLeo pushed hard on the legislation, ramming it through quickly without public hearings, and the vote was 120-37. It remains to be seen what the Senate version of the bill will look like, as Senate President Therese Murray has indicated she is not in favor of slot machines at the tracks, a position echoed by the governor.

Among those who voted for the proposal, which I think is a terrible idea for East Boston, is our state Rep. Carlo Basile. Here is an excerpt from my September 2007 interview with Basile published on this site:
Hubster: I’ll throw out a few issues, and you tell me in a few sentences what you think. Casino gambling?

Basile: I don’t know enough about it. Don’t know at what cost. What’s East Boston going to get in return? Can our infrastructure support it? We’re a blue-collar neighborhood. People get their checks once a month. We don’t want them running to the casino and giving it up all in one day. We’re going to pay for it anyway, so what are we getting in return? Are we going to hurt more people? I know it’s going to create jobs, but at what cost? At this point I can’t say that I’m for it and I can’t say that I’m against it. I just need to educate myself more about it.

Hubster: What if it wasn’t at Suffolk Downs, but in Massachusetts in general?

Basile: I believe in the whole general concept of casino gambling. Massachusetts residents are running to Connecticut and making Connecticut rich, but I just don’t know if Suffolk Downs is the place to put it. We already have a major airport. We have three tunnels. We’re dealing with a lot already in East Boston.
Basile had many good questions then, and maybe he's received satisfactory answers to them. It would be nice if those answers were shared with the rest of us.


Matthew said...

Agreed. I'd like some answers too. He should be accountable to his constituents, not the speaker of the house. I haven't received a response to an email I sent him with my concerns.

John said...

I'll reiterate my comments posted awhile back about this topic. If casinos were a good thing, Wellesley and Weston would be fighting for them, not East Boston and Palmer.

We'll get more traffic, more pollution, more litter, more crime, and lower property values. I don't care how many $10 an hour jobs it creates, the negative impact to the surrounding communities of East Boston and Revere outweigh any low wage jobs that would be created.

Keep the slots in resort casinos, we have enough neighbors who spend their days on the street corners scratching tickets and playing keno (and littering).

Stephanie said...

Interested in continuing the casino discussion? Don't miss a new LIVE episode of Basic Black tonight at 7:30 on WGBH Channel 2 in Boston and online at Our panel will be discussing the ongoing debate over casinos and how this affects communities of color. Tell us what you think in our live chat at throughout the show.

John said...

I didn't catch Basic Black but I did catch Greater Boston with Emily Rooney tonight. Emily discussed the casino debate and did a piece on Twin River and Mohegan. The surrounding towns had the following to say:
1. For every dollar that came in, it cost the state $3 in social and economic issues.
2. The number of non-english speaking students in Norwich Ct quadrupled after the casino opened.
3. Crime skyrocketed and the average wages of the area actually decreased with the opening of the casino.

I think we, the people, need to vote on something that will so drastically change OUR state. If not, I sure won't be voting for any incumbent come the fall.

Matthew said...

I’m very glad to see some comments and discussion here. Hopefully the neighborhood can mobilize on this issue and sway our elected officials. While I’m not opposed to casinos in MA, I am very much against the idea of a casino at Suffolk Downs or in East Boston. This is not a simple case of NIMBY either – I believe that a casino in East Boston:

1. Would have far greater impacts (crime, traffic, social costs, etc.) on our densely settled neighborhood than if the casino was located in a less residential area.
2. Will most assuredly be an “island” within the neighborhood with very little spillover or benefits to local businesses (i.e., casino patrons aren’t going to take a break from gambling for a dinner in Day Square).
3. Would lead to increased congestion on 1A and around Logan which could be detrimental to our airport-related industries (think of the freight companies along 1A) and make travel to/from Logan less convenient for airline passengers (Logan already has a poor reputation as an outdated, undersized airport with chronic delay issues). Our elected officials need to keep this in perspective - the airport is a far greater economic driver for our region than the casino ever will be, so why chance the potential impacts?
4. Won’t ever become a true “resort” style casino due to its location on an industrial stretch of 1A surrounded by warehouse buildings and oil fields (not exactly a serene location) and, as a result, will likely be an out-of-the-way, backwater venue that attracts problem gamblers, senior citizens, and other “vulnerable” segments of our society rather than affluent business travelers and tourists. Competition for both “high rollers” and mass market, middle-class gamblers is extremely fierce, which is why Vegas and AC are continually trying to create a “better mouse trap” with new casinos, hotels with amusement parks, etc. Can anyone keep a straight face and say that Suffolk Downs can compete with these venues – or even Foxwoods – and become a “destination” casino? Of course not. The Suffolk Downs team is trying to sell us on a “glamorous” casino, but in reality they’ll end up developing a modest (i.e., less costly) a blue-collar casino where pension, social security, and child support checks are spent by people who cannot afford to lose.

So if not Suffolk Downs, where do I think a casino an urban casino could be successful? With all due respect to our brethren in Southie, I can’t imagine a better location than the Seaport area for the following reasons:

1. Development in the area has come to a complete standstill, leaving acres and acres of surface lots that can be developed.
2. The area has very little population density (due to its industrial heritage) and, through the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the Big Dig, has some of the best highway and public transportation access in the city.
3. The synergies between a casino, the adjacent convention center, and the newly developed hotels in the area are so obvious, it’s downright shameful that our elected officials haven’t figured this out. Boston is trying to grow the convention center, attract more convention business, and fill its hotels – wouldn’t a casino help achieve all of these goals?
4. A casino in the Seaport district would create more of the 24/7 environment that Mayor has strived to bring to the city.
5. Unlike an out-of-the-way East Boston location, a casino in the Seaport could be a glamorous destination and would not be an island. Casino guests could WALK to the ICA, the Children’s Museum, the Aquarium, Faneuil Hall, and would frequent the many wonderful restaurants in the area which are sorely in need of business apart from the workday/workweek clientele. With a prominent downtown location, I also believe that the city and police will be far more diligent in keeping undesirable elements at bay vs. an “out of sight, out of mind location” in East Boston.