Friday, September 21, 2007

Just Who Opposes Casinos in Massachusetts?

Can, at last, we say this vaunted neutrality is shattered? The good father, Father McGowan, has finally allowed some sort of an opinion on gambling to trickle out. With his signature issue being addiction, he's been around the Bay State block - from seeing the Governor to, well, writing an Op Ed in today's Globe. As a prominent and until now nuetral voice on casinos in Massachusetts, today's piece in the Globe is certainly significant. So, what is his opinion? He essentially asserts that because a majority of people gamble, it's okay. Fair enough. Yet, here's where I take issue with his column:
Antigambling activists maintain that gambling is inherently wrong. They argue that it is against human nature and nobility. A gambler violates his or her conscience in yielding to greed. Gambling becomes the irrational effort to maximize chance against reason. It also destroys the will, since intentionally maximizing risk "is the will to have no will."

Look, who's to say he's wrong. There are certainly people out there making the argument that all gambling is unseemly and should be banned. But that's just not the argument you'll get at Ryan's Take. Furthermore, it's not the prevailing argument being waged across Massachusetts, at least in the blogosphere. Representative Dan Bosley's arguments are the ones most people keep making - and considering he was the anti-casino voice in the forum Father McGowan recently participated in, McGowan should have addressed Bosley's concerns in the Globe column, instead of dumbing the whole issue down.

To keep this dialogue honest, here are the important facts: gambling isn't going anywhere. Despite McGowan's assertions in his column, that's not the war being waged in Massachusetts. What is at stake are casinos, something that is thankfully not synonymous with gambling.

Why not take on all gambling? Perhaps, in part, because Father McGowan makes some good points: gambling, while dangerous, is a fabric of human nature that can't be wiped off this Earth. For a less ethereal reason, many people oppose casinos because they do far more harm than give people a place to legally feed their addictions. Casino resorts hurt local businesses. They don't do what so many politicians promise: provide the state with vast quantities of taxable income. Instead, they mostly redistribute taxes a state already gets, often at the expense of those who can least afford it. When many say they're against casino resorts, it's because they know local businesses can't compete. The morality of gambling is often left out of the equation.

Ultimately, citizens of Massachusetts have to decide what is going to be better for our economy. Thousands of strong and stable local business with homegrown owners - or three gigantic casinos, owned and operated mainly by forces outside of the Commonwealth? If people want to know what separates those who are for casinos in this state from those who oppose them, don't look at Father McGowan's column for any insight. Instead, ask anyone that question - do they support local businesses over gigantic casinos - because it stands at the very heart of what divides those who think casino resorts are a good idea from those who think they're wrong for Massachusetts.


William Bennett said...

Right. It's not about gambling. There are lots of opportunities to gamble. Let's turn on the lights and bet which cockroach makes it under the sink first. It's about licensing monopolies to exploit a common bug (inadvertent pun) in the human operating system that responds to slot machines the way pigeons and mice respond to unpredictable schedules of reinforcement. The key word is "monopoly." If slot machines (like lottery tickets) were in every corner store, they would be profitable, but only at about the rate that other such businesses are profitable.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but honestly, isn't this a bit overblown? The way Ryan acts, the problem is that casinos are going to spread throughout the state. Now you're saying the problem is that casinos aren't going to spread throughout the state, there aren't going to be enough. Which is it?

Frankly, gambling is boring to everyone except old people. It's not going to spread, there's not enough business to sustain it. No other state has casinos on every corner, and with casinos in CT, NJ and Montreal, we're not going to get that much business from North or South. And as far as businesses going under, well what are you going to do? If they go under it'll be because people prefer going to the casino. So now we're only going to license really unpopular activities and restaurants with bad food, because if we licensed something good it will hurt the existing options that we only go to because we don't have anything better?

Ryan didn't care about how letting the huge supermarket chains sell liquour was going to affect established businesses, I don't see why this is any different.

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