Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not with a bang, but with a whimper?

Both sides are saying that any chance for a gambling bill to emerge from this legislative session is over. Gov. Patrick sent the bill back to the House and Senate with an amendment that strips out slot machines (and such an amended bill would, apparently, need a two-thirds majority, which I hadn't realized), and Speaker DeLeo is saying publicly that any such compromise is "doubtful." There is still time, but neither side looks like it's willing to budge.

While those of us against the idea are edging ever closer to victory, it seems like an unsatisfying win. Most of the state's elected officials were willing to dispense with even the simple step of commissioning an independent study of casino gambling and the benefits and negative consequences of bringing it to Massachusetts. Our own local officials were not interested in a real discussion of what slots or a casino at Suffolk Downs would mean to the people and business owners of East Boston.

Politicians are, too often, willing to go along with something because of the way it appears rather than because it is actually something good. The tax-free weekend (Aug 14-15) that the legislature recently passed is a case in point. It doesn't really help anyone. While consumers may save a few bucks here and there, those dollars are already spent in the state budget, so we're all going to have to fork them over sooner or later. As for businesses, studies show that almost all of the money spent on those weekends is for purchases that would have been made anyway. At best, it's a wash for businesses because they need to pay extra money to have more employees working during the busy weekend, but they are still paying for the regular shifts on other weekends when those customers aren't coming in.

Like the idea of bringing casinos and slot machines to this state, it's all glitter and no substance. Unfortunately, our legislators are like infants who get easily sidetracked by shiny things.


Ryan said...

Way too right. Honestly, I think there are more than a few legislators who switched their votes on the casino issue who are secretly happy the damn thing imploded in on itself.

The casino lobbies may have inched a bit closer this year, but the same dynamic that's always been their bane in the past -- racinos versus casinos versus nothing -- has not disappeared yet, nor is it likely to in the next year or two, so long as the tracks are alive and kicking.

Meanwhile, yet again, it's just one great, big, giant sucking sound on Beacon Hill -- a real metaphor for how they'll be in real life, economically -- which less action on some important bills (though, thankfully, we managed to get many of them through despite casinos, owed in large part toward's Senate President Murray's political chess moves). Here's hoping we can now move on and address real problems that the Bay State is facing, not the Shiny Things calling out to us in the window.

Kazak said...

Ditto. I think for those of us who weren't psyched about casinos/racinos coming to our n'hood we are sort of on the hook for two things in the coming year or two. One: we need to come up with some good ideas to get the economy going that don't involve the seven deadly sins. The biggest argument for gambling isn't that it's not so bad, but that what the hell else are we going to do, we need jobs. We need more answers to that question (said the unemployed schmuck).

Two: we really need to get people aware of this. It can't all be on John Ribeiro's shoulders to tell the other side of the story (although he should be commended for the great job he's done of it). At the forum at Orient Heights I saw one black face and one Latina. Have any of the small Latino business owners heard about what happens to local businesses when a casino complex comes to town? There are a LOT of other people that need to be brought up to speed and brought to the table *before* this stuff gets passed into law.

There needs to be some organizing and some educating done. In the process of doing so, I'm certainly open to hearing better arguments in favor of casinos as well. Or at least new solutions or firewalls against the indisputable downsides of casinos. Adults should be free to gamble if they want to really, I just don't think the casinos owners' desire to make a killing should take precedence over the well being of a community that already has enough crap to deal with as it stands.

Neighbor said...

Even if nothing is passed this year, this fight is not over. The casino lobby will only spend more money next year. This market is an untapped well and unless and until they face overwhelming opposition in the state house, they will be back each and every year with unlimited resources.
We will be making our way to the different neighborhood groups in East Boston during the fall. We're also planning a forum in Winthrop and making inroads in Revere.

We will be putting together a downloadable "one-pager" on the negative impact of casinos or racinos will have on the economy (local and statewide) and our community.

I've also had discussion with the Mass Biotech Council on what it would take to initiate development in the area. We can be much more creative than what we have been in the area of economic development. More to come on this front.

The future of East Boston and the surrounding communities is in our hands. If we choose to abdicate that responsibility to our elected officials, who have been seduced by the casino industry and pressured by the unions, then we are as responsible for the outcome had we built the casino ourselves.

If anyone is interested in helping to get the word out, contact us at:

John Ribeiro

Jim said...

Let's turn to today's East Boston Times for an even-handed rundown of the latest on attempts to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts and to hear from local citizens on the issue.

On second thought...

I should know better, but I am always stunned to find journalism rule #1 broken when NEWS STORIES on the front page of the Times are filled with OPINION, which should be relegated to EDITORIALS and COLUMNISTS. How are we to believe any reporting on an issue when we see every story on that issue filled with a biased point of view.

Definition of a reporter from one Internet site: "Reporters find the sources for their work; the reports can be either spoken or written; they are generally expected to report in the most objective and unbiased way to serve the public good."

Speaking of the public, how many residents are quoted in the story? Oh, what a surprise: two -- our state senator and our state rep. I guess that must mean that the rest of us idiots have nothing meaningful to say.