Saturday, March 15, 2008

Post Worst Than Globe:

Casinos are Wonderful, or Something

Remember when the Washington Post was a great newspaper with top-notch journalistic standards? Not so much anymore. It would be a challenge to find a worse article on casino gambling in Massachusetts than the Washington Post's flowery piece. Casinos are great. Casinos will save the day. Casinos are so great that people are "for [traffic]." Huh?

"People over the age of 58 -- people entering their senior years -- they don't want to see traffic. But start getting into the crowd 18 to 45, you'll find they are for it."
The Post didn't question a single number from the administration, including the numbers that have been very loudly debunked. It's all about how casinos are going to save Palmer, Massachusetts... and apparently stop all those wonderful, local flower shops from closing down. (As if a casino has ever saved local businesses.)

PALMER, Mass -- In this once-prosperous, now-depressed former mill town in western Massachusetts, residents casually rattle off the names of all the factories that shut down long ago and of the businesses getting ready to leave. "Everything is closing down," said Robyn Moriarty, 51, who has worked here in her father Bud's corner grocery store since she was in high school. "The video place wants to close. Comcast closed. There was a fruit company across the street -- they left. The taxi company wants to close. . . . There was a flower shop across the street -- she's gone." With the local economy in such doldrums, any effort to bring jobs here might be expected to get an enthusiastic welcome.

But there is ambivalence, and worry, about one effort being discussed: a massive casino resort to be built nearby, one of three casinos to be opened in the state, if Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) can get his proposal through a reluctant state legislature. For Patrick, bringing casinos to Massachusetts makes economic sense. He says his casino plan would create 30,000 construction jobs [note to WashPo: the Gov was off by 25,000 on that one - oops] and 20,000 permanent jobs, as well as generate an anticipated $400 million a year in new revenue in a state grappling with a budget shortfall.

It doesn't get much better than that. There's two brief quotes against casinos, but neither of them sadly challenged the casino numbers. That was a blatant choice on the Post's part, because one of the quotes came from Casino Free Mass - and they hit the economic impacts early and often in every interview. This one in particular lasted a full hour or two, with Doug Bailey "going over all the points." (I emailed him.) Here's the extent to which the Post questions anything about how casinos and why they may not be such a wonderful deal.

"I do think there's going to be a tailing off of gambling revenue," said Nick Johnson, a state budget expert at the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Eventually, there has to be a finite interest in playing these games." "We're going to kill the golden goose because there's too many of them," said Doug Bailey, president of DBMediaStrategies of Boston, who is coordinating for a group called Casino Free Mass to fight Patrick's plan. "If Massachusetts gets three casinos, Rhode Island will want one, Maine will want one."
Apparently, the only reason why casinos may not be good for Massachusetts, is because they're so wonderful that they'll saturate the market. Never mind the loss of local business on a wide scale, economic hardships on families effected by problem gamblers, increased crime and, of course, the opportunity cost from losing out on all this time that we, as a state, could be focusing on much more productive avenues. Never mind the very real impact of 40,000 extra cars on the road every day, and tens of thousands more on days with big events. Not many roads in Massachusetts could handle that - and many of them can't exactly be expanded to do so (think Suffolk Downs/Wonderland Park on Route 1-A).

Casinos put money in share holder pockets, or the pockets of those whom own and operate casinos - not into the local economy (it's not as if casinos are owned and operated by the local population). Large-scale casinos are also designed to keep people in the casinos for as long as possible: free liquor and booze, all the restaurants, entertainment and shops anyone could imagine and, of course, the fact that slot machines are designed to be psychologically addicting. How is any of that supposed to improve the economy of local communities? Who knows, the Washington Post never bothered asking those questions. When none of the money people spend at casinos actually produces anything, and all of it will go out of states to fill the coffers of a lucky few instead of improving the local economy - it's imperative that the media actually write stories with a little intellectual curiosity, instead of this WashPo muck.


Anonymous said...

There is a slot casino now in RI, and it's packed with people from Mass. Went there yesterday and there were plenty of locals with jobs.

Ryan Adams said...

They're not real slot machines, they're "Bingo Slots" which are far less profitable, and attract far fewer clientele. Also, I bet if you asked a few of those locals "what were you doing before the casino," a few of them would probably speak up about a job they had before the casino came to town, forcing layoffs and store closings.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been there? Well I've been to Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno, Foxwoods and Mohegan. They're "real" slots. The parking lot is packed. Many worked at the dog track which has been functioning for years, now they just work in a nicer venue.
Go and visit before you judge.

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