Monday, November 12, 2007

Casinos: Beacon Hill's Easy Bake Oven

I was invited to speak to over a hundred people last night in New Bedford, explaining just why I think casinos are a terrible idea for Massachusetts. There were a number of other great speakers and the audience was terrific. I wrote in detail about the event here, along with what people can do to stop casinos from becoming a reality. However, during the last speaker of the night's presentation, given by CasinoFreeMassachusetts's spokeswoman Laura Everett, I was struck by the simple brilliance of one her chief points.

"We need to have an adult conversation here," she said.

It put together the last few remaining pieces to the casino puzzle for me. Casinos are nothing but a gimmick. They won't fix any of our revenue problems. They're a distraction from the real, far more difficult issues out there. It's a flashy, new toy for the state's politicians to keep them busy from doing their real work, like finding a way to control health care costs in this state (you know, the thing that's driving cities and towns bankrupt). For evidence, Massachusetts has lower taxes than New Jersey, Connecticut and many other states with casinos. So much for the panacea some claim them to be.

In fact, not only are casinos a gimmicky toy, they're the political version of an easy-bake oven.

"Hey, Mommy Constituents, look at me help you cook dinner for us," said the honorable Therese Murray, "all I have to do is put the casino issue in the little box, make sure it passes through the shiny lights inside, wait just a few minutes and it's done!"

Except, just like with Easy Bake Ovens, they're only toys. The food they make can't feed a family and the little they can provide is empty calories that tastes bland. Plus, what do you do when you run out of the boxed ingredients (aka once-a-decade licensing fees)? The Political Easy Bake Oven is fun and flashy for the first few minutes, but they grow old and tiresome later on. Sadly, they're also dangerous: they can cause fires and have been known to burn children in the past. Worse yet, because of the components, they can't just be thrown away after you're done with them. When you own an easy bake oven, you own it for good - even after it breaks and just ends up being a waste of space.

So there you all have it, folks. Casinos are like an easy-bake oven for politicians. Beacon Hill may love them, but they end up being an expensive waste of time for all the grown ups other citizens of Massachusetts in the long run, not to mention an ugly, pink eye sore.

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