Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Casino Questions for Governor Patrick

No fun pictures for this one, just some humble curiosity. Governor Patrick is right about casinos when he says "there is no obvious answer for the Commonwealth." He's also right to say that casinos aren't the end of civilization as we know it, but that's for one major reason only: areas surrounding the casinos will be hit the hardest, but they don't constitute a civilization - only small parts of it. Yet, just because casinos won't ruin all of Massachusetts, that doesn't mean we need to build one - or three, in this case, either. Casinos in Massachusetts are fuzzy and difficult to predict on whether they'll be mostly good or bad for this state, but even if they're good, they're not going to be great. So, why take the risk? I haven't heard Governor Patrick answer that one yet.

Sadly, there are other big questions that Deval Patrick hasn't answered. Why would anyone go to a bar to watch a big game when they can go to the casino, watch the game and bet on it, to boot? Heck, these resorts may even have free beer - just like they do in Foxwoods, according to my fan-of-the-foxy-casino elder sister. Casinos kill local businesses - just look at Atlanta, Las Vegas or any number of places. Their entire entertainment and leisure industry - from restaurants to clubs and bars, even to spas and shows - wrest around casinos (and usually in them). With a 'we don't need no local owners' mentality, we forget they're the ones who care about local areas - with kids in their schools and cars on their streets.

Meanwhile, resort casinos are drinks, foods, sporting events and malls all wrapped into one. The local economy doesn't even stand a chance. If people like to complain about the death of local downtowns and important nearby congregating areas, why, Governor Patrick, institute policies that will only further propagate their demise?

Of course, we haven't really heard the Governor answer questions about the social costs, either. Games are much more exciting when you have money riding on it, except of course when suddenly you've blown hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But don't worry, after you've blown away your savings, we'll have "best-in-the-nation" social programs for you (negating some of this vaunted added revenue). That way, after you've already blown away your kid's future, we'll get you some help. No harm, no foul. See why I'm so cynical?

Even if Governor Patrick is correct in that we'll have all these new, wonderful programs, how - Governor Patrick - will any of them actually prevent major devastation to families (who can least afford them) to begin with? When someone wastes away their life, they tend to take a lot of people with them. It's wonderful to cure the addiction, but not so much if the damage is already done. And then, after all of that, there will be three convenient and tempting targets for addicts to wrestle with for the rest of their lives - certainly not a recipe for success.

The biggest concern, for me, are local economies. Having lived in and studied places such as New Bedford and Lynn, I know quite a bit about the differences between having a flourishing local economy - and not. As recently as my mother's youth, Lynn prospered. Cities and towns like Salem, Saugus and Peabody weren't a part of Greater Boston, they were a part of Greater Lynn. They worked in its high-paying, Blue-Collar factories, shopped in its huge downtown and even went there for entertainment - restaurants, shops and shows. Now? Lynn's perpetually rebuilding, hoping to find the key to rekindling great things that may or may not ever happen again. In New Bedford, things are even more bleak. At the same time, blue collar jobs disappeared and America hasn't become a more inspiring place.

Governor Patrick, how will minimum-wage casino jobs and mega resorts with everything in one small place fix any of these problems? Isn't it even more likely, as casinos gut local economies, that many of the Commonwealth's problems will only get worse? Then again, maybe I only think local economies are the bigger concern because I'm not close to anyone who's been addicted to gambling and dragged their entire family down with them. Is Governor Patrick?

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