Friday, October 03, 2008

How to Get a Balanced Budget: Not With Casinos.

Cuts are looming in the state budget. Duh. Today's Globe, though, did have a particularly disturbing statement thrown in there:
Meanwhile, neither Patrick nor House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was ruling out a return to the debate over licensing casinos, which Patrick has said could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.
Why, on earth, does the Globe want to talk about casinos now? Or the Governor, for that matter:
Patrick acknowledged that some of his other long-term spending initiatives and campaign promises lingering from 2006 might have to be curtailed. And tellingly, he did not rule out reviving his casino gambling legislation to raise money. Patrick had projected licensing three casinos would generate at least $600 million in one-time fees and huge sums in ongoing gaming taxes.
Repeat after me: No state has ever balanced its budget with casinos. We have one of the most profitable lottery systems in the country - and we're still in the red. Our lottery system pulls in far more per capita than just about every state that already has casinos. Many casinos are on the verge of bankruptcy. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are cutting staff and pausing on added construction. Twin Rivers, in Rhode Island, is threatening bankruptcy to force the state to give into its demands. The bottom line: If Massachusetts allows casinos, we don't own them, they own us. They'll rail, threaten and sweeten the pots of our politicians until they get whatever they want - if we let them in. The easy and prudent solution is to never let them in to begin with.

A question for the Globe: how would casino revenue balance our budget? For starters, the licensing procedures would take months, if not a year. We wouldn't have the cash in time to save this year's budget. However, even if we could miraculously get those licenses in on time and get full value for them in a rushed process, once those license funds are spent, that's it. What would we do for next year's budget? The one after that?

What would we do with declining revenue in state and local coffers as businesses go under from the weight of resort casinos? What would we do to account for the increased costs in this state for addiction services, prisons, police and infrastructure? How about decreased state lottery revenue - much of which goes directly to cities and towns across the state? Hence, we're not solving this current problem by adding casinos. In fact, casinos are only a distraction from solving our fiscal crisis, focusing politicians on the beeping and the flashing instead of problem solving.

A common tactic by casino interests is to come to the 'aid' of states when they're facing stiff fiscal constraints and are weak to the promise of money. However, that money is not real. Gambling profits are mainly a redistribution of wealth that goes from the people of this state to the corporate executives. Money is taken out of the pockets of this state's small businesses and into the pockets of a few shareholders. So they'll come in with a big flashy number, sucking in magnitudes more where no one is looking. At least with the state lottery, almost all the money goes to the state and people of the state, somewhat offsetting the damages done to the gambling addicts who we legally feed (and often create) their addiction.

There's never any good answer to being hundreds of millions in the hole. Making severe cuts to the budget has dangerous consequences - closing down health clinics, reducing funds going to communities and preventing crime-preventing programs from ever being initiated. Raising taxes is a tough political pill, especially when people are already struggling to get by. However, let the record be clear: casinos is not now, nor will it ever be, the answer to our fiscal woes. Not only are casinos a distraction from finding the right solutions, but with casinos, our problems will only get worse.

Finally, the Governor had this to say in the Globe article:
"We'll have to see," Patrick said, when asked whether he'll refile the proposal to license three resort casinos. "You know, it's a new legislative session coming up in January, and we're developing that agenda now."
All I can say is the Governor ought to solve the budget crisis first before he uses this opportunity as a 'shock' attempt into getting the state to legalize casinos. Such a tactic would be straight out of the Republican hand book, so I firmly expect that he won't employ it.

4 comments:

Bellicose Bumpkin said...

Ryan - this post is right on - especially this paragraph
What would we do with declining revenue in state and local coffers as businesses go under from the weight of resort casinos? What would we do to account for the increased costs in this state for addiction services, prisons, police and infrastructure? How about decreased state lottery revenue - much of which goes directly to cities and towns across the state? Hence, we're not solving this current problem by adding casinos. In fact, casinos are only a distraction from solving our fiscal crisis, focusing politicians on the beeping and the flashing instead of problem solving.

Like the Spectrum report, the various Clyde Barrows rah-rah reports, and virtually every other "report" --- the selling of casinos is all about touting benefits while ignoring costs.

Get real folks. When a used car salesmen won't let you look under the hood, tell you the mileage, or what the MPG is, you find another dealership.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Ryan!
You got it all correct, but if casino "licenses" are sold, it will be at distress sale prices because they have no current value.
Has anyone heard of CUTTING?
I am a firm believer that we have lived far beyond our means for far too long. We're essentially bankrupt and you can thank every Republican you know. We've finally become a banana republic. Now we know what it feels like.

Anonymous said...

Ry:
Looks like your binky DiMasi is doing what is does all the time. He is giving in and goin' soft. Perhaps the ethics charges (see today's Globe) are getting to him.

IggaBoy said...

Hotels help tribal casinos attract more tourists

By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer

EVERETT -- Members of the Tulalip Tribes aren't the first and won't be the last to couple a casino with a resort in the state.

Several tribal casino-resorts are scattered across Washington. They include the Emerald Queen Casino, run by the Puyallup Indian Tribe in Fife, and Davenport's Two Rivers Casino and Resort operated by the Spokane Tribe of Indians. While plenty of casinos exist without resorts, those with hotels, like the Tulalips, tend to bring in even more tourists to the region.

Just north of the Tulalip Reservation in Bow is the Skagit Valley Casino Resort, owned by the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe. Situated 70 miles north of Seattle and 70 miles south of Vancouver, the Skagit casino serves as a stopping point for travelers looking to explore both cities. The rooms at Skagit Valley Resort Casino aren't as expensive as at Tulalip, with through-the-week rates as low as $69 during sale periods. A second, unattached hotel operates across the street.

Lisa Swanberg, office director for the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, said the casino's remoteness hasn't stopped tourists from flocking there. Many Skagit casino patrons make their way to Burlington's outlet shopping center.

"We have a lot of people who come down from Canada," Swanberg said.

The Skagit Valley Casino Resort is a stop on at least two Canada-based bus tours, including ETA Bus Tours and Winners Express Charter Coach.

With its proximity to North Cascades National Park, the Skagit casino aims to capture some of the park's visitors. It also serves as the closest lodging to the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival in late January to early February, Swanberg noted.

The resort also is one of the closest lodging options for people going to the Skagit Speedway.

Farther south lies the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, located at Ocean Shores. It is owned by the Quinault Indian tribe. Like the Tulalip hotel, the Quinault's Beach Resort also features a spa that provides an array of services including massage. The 150-room Quinault resort sits right along Washington's Pacific coast. It provides entertainment, much like the Tulalip and Skagit resorts.

The resort draws from two large city bases. Portland, Ore., is about 170 miles from away while 135 miles separates the resort from Seattle. Beside Washington's coastal area, the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino boasts a nearness to the southwest corner of Olympia National Park as well as the park's protected beaches.

Leslie Reedy serves on the Grays Harbor County Tourism board as well as the Ocean Shores Chamber of Commerce. She says a lot of tourists to the area come mostly to spend time on the beach. The Quinault resort and casino offers a convenient place to stay and play near the ocean. And the influx of tourists to the resort has helped the surrounding communities.

"The shops in town benefit from the resort" as do restaurants and gas stations, Reedy said.

Tourism spikes even further when the resort hosts conventions or draws a popular entertainment act. The tribe and local officials have worked together at times on advertising or to bring in more tourists to the area.

"They put a lot of money into the community," she said.

Hey RY,
We already give it to CT and RI anyway.
We might as well take back that revenue and create a few jobs.

Its not like people don't need them right about now.

I see all the STOP CASINO messages but I don't hear the shout on how to get revenue back into our State?

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