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.