The Massachusetts Legislature did not pass a gambling bill because casinos and slot parlors were a good idea.
Numerous other factors had been at work, such as deep-pocketed lobbyists, special interests, political pressure, bogus numbers, inflated projections, misinformation and confusion over federal Indian policy, and the urgency to stimulate the economy during one of the nation's longest recessions.
After thirty years of debate and voting NO on the issue of expanded gambling...The Massachusetts legislature found itself with three very pro-casino lawmakers filling the highest ranking seats in State Government - Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker Bob DeLeo and and Senate President Therese Murray.
All of whom, it would later be revealed, did not want a casino anywhere near them.
Helping to further grease the skids, the gambling industry pumped a record $11.4 million into lobbying efforts on Beacon Hill in the five years leading up to the 2011 vote to legalize casinos.
Since then, some cities and towns have voted to host casinos, while others have voted no. Residents of surrounding cities and towns, often closely abutting proposed casinos have had no vote whatsoever. And at least one city - East Boston - voted NO, only to watch as casino investors were given a second chance at another vote in the city right next door.
The gambling bill was not passed because of a lack of evidence. The Governor and Legislature were presented with mountains of information, such as how the gambling industry's business model really works, the predatory practices they employ, and how they reap the lion's share of their profits from problem and pathological gamblers.
Scientists explained how modern slot machines create addiction by design, putting players into the "machine zone" where casinos can get them to "play to extinction" - an actual industry term - and why the brain scans of gambling addicts look the same as those of crack cocaine addicts. Addiction specialists tried to dispel the notion that gambling addiction was a mostly harmless activity that effected only a small percentage of players.
Lawmakers were presented with evidence of the negative impacts that casinos have had on other cities and towns across the country, and proof that crime does, in fact, increase with casinos. They were warned about the real potential for market saturation, the prevelance of child abandonment, suicide, underage gambling and increased financial hardships for the elderly.
They were provided with solid information about Federal Indian policy, casino employment, business cannibalization and gambling as economic policy. They were shown how the negative impacts of a casino extended 50 miles beyond the host community. Local officials and citizens presented concerns over loss of property value, excessive traffic, and dangers to the environment, water supplies and infrastructure.
And they were requested, repeatedly, to perform an independent and complete cost benefit analysis and see for themselves. But lawmakers refused, instead spending taxpayer dollars on superficial, meaningless benefit-only reports from non-independent industry insiders and those who would benefit from casinos and slots parlors.
State as Stakeholder.
After his release from prison, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was asked what he thought about the prospect of casinos in Massachusetts.
He replied, "They will own your state."
And so, perhaps the most onerous negative impact of legalizing casinos and slots parlors is that Massachusetts will become a powerful, de facto partner of the gambling industry.
Because, with a budgetary dependence on casino revenue, our state now becomes a stakeholder in the gambling industry, obligated by necessity and self-interest to ensure and maintain casino profits above a certain threshold.
In Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island the tables have already turned, and now, instead of providing unlimited revenue, casinos have received taxpayer breaks, bailouts, and concessions to stay afloat. In Connecticut, the casinos have been laying off employees. On-line gambling is expected to take another big chunk out of the gambling market.
In pursuit of more revenue, New Jersey also repealed a smoking ban that had put in place to protect casino workers. In California they lowered the gambling age to 18. Midwest riverboat casinos, originally intended to float down the river and return patrons after a set time to keep losses low, quickly became 'boats in a moat' – full-fledged permanently-docked casinos sitting in a foot of water. States have also abandoned formerly imposed wagering or loss limits. In Iowa and Illinois measures like these resulted in existing gamblers losing more money as opposed to increasing the number of gamblers.
Rhode Island's Twin River slots parlor was supposed to save racing, but when it still couldn't make enough money, it filed for bankruptcy, was allowed to jettison the track, extended its hours to 24/7 and added table games to become a full-fledged casino. A push by lawmakers looking to help solve Connecticut's multibillion-dollar deficit by extending casino liquor hours was cut short only after a patron leaving Mohegan Sun plowed into a van full of college students, killing one of them.
Anyone who thinks it will be different here in Massachusetts, in ever-tighter gambling market made tighter by the addition of three casinos and a slots parlor are fooling themselves. The State will do whatever it needs to keep revenue at sufficient levels. That's what a good stakeholder does.
Mitigation as panacea.
The currency of casino leglislation in Massachusetts is known as mitigation - money the casino is obligated to shell out to help make people feel better about their quality of life getting worse.
This money may be slated for traffic "mitigation" or crime "mitigation" or "mitigation" attractively re-branded as funding for education - but one thing is clear, the money the gambling industry pays to be able to play in Massachusetts, to the State, to the host and surrounding communities, either in revenue or mitigation, is not a gift. It is money that was lost by people in the region around the casino. And not at inclusive restaurants and shops - those are just the industry's window dressing. It is money that was lost on the casino floor by means of using deceptive technology and predatory business practices, with the majority from problem and pathological gamblers. This is why gambling revenue is often referred to as a "shell game". It's all the same money, just shuffled around differently - with increasingly corrosive results to society as a whole.
Ask yourself, if casinos are so great for Massachusetts then why have...
- Governor Deval Patrick
- Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo
- Senate President Therese Murray
- Attorney General Martha Coakley
- The former head of the American Gaming Association
- The Chairman of the Mass. Gaming Commission
- Caesars's CEO Gary Loveman
...all publicly admitted they don't want to live near one?
- Does the state offer multi-million dollar incentives to many businesses to locate here, while casino companies have to pay?
- Is the gambling industry considered controversial and so heavily regulated?
- Did towns like Foxboro, Milford, Palmer and East Boston reject casinos?
- Are gambling operators required to shell out millions in "mitigation" to host and surrounding communities?
- Would Governor Patrick throw his full support behind a tribal casino to be built next to an elementary school in a working class neighborhood in East Taunton, yet threatens to sue another tribe from building a casino on Martha's Vineyard...an island playground frequented by his rich and politically connected friends?