Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yo, Rep. Bowles, Get Your Facts Straight on Slots

A disappointing email was forwarded to me coming from the office of Rep. Bowles, who has decided to co-sponsor a bill to bring slot machines to Massachusetts. I know that the AFL-CIO just sponsored a 'freshmen breakfast' which was, in part, meant to get support from the freshmen on casinos and slots. I hope that didn't make an impact in Bowles's decision.

Here's what he had to say in his email:
I have decided to co-sponsor and support the slot machine legislation for several reasons. The most significant to me, is that our state is losing possible revenue to Connecticut and Rhode Island to the Massachusetts residents who cross the border to gamble. However, I understand the compelling reasons against the slot machines and I do appreciate your concerns about gambling addiction.
This is very disappointing. A lot of people, including progressives, worked very hard to get Bowles elected. He was on the short list of many progressive organizations for their focus and attention.

Here's what I find most disturbing: he recognizes that there are "compelling reasons" to ban slots, yet doesn't think those important reasons are good enough because of a small chunk of change we're losing to Connecticut. He's willing to put a few million dollars he thinks we're losing to Connecticut ahead of the life savings of families in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. Nice.

But let's tackle those economic questions, since he's so willing to ignore the tens of thousands of lives slots in Massachusetts would ruin. First of all, we're losing nothing to Rhode Island. The Twin Rivers in RI is going bankrupt. The state is so dependent on the small slice of change they get there that they're even thinking of buying out Twin Rivers - which means they not only won't be making money off that racino, but they'll be losing cash. Hundreds of millions in cash. In a year that they're facing a steep fiscal crisis of their own. Knowing that, does adding slots to racinos in Massachusetts sound like such a good idea to you? I didn't think so.

But what about Connecticut? The casinos in Connecticut are doing so well that thousands are being laid off and Foxwood's MGM expansion is empty. The planned expansion at Mohegan Sun are no longer planned. The Connecticutt casinos, like casinos across America - including Las Vegas - aren't too far from bankruptcy. It's pretty clear that even if Massachusetts legalized a casino, it could take years before financing could be available to build a behemoth project. It's equally clear, looking at Rhode Island, that allowing racinos won't tide us over - they'll only get us in deeper.

There really aren't any compelling reasons for a casino or racinos in Massachusetts. If we allow them, it will kill our local businesses and communities. The facts can't be denied. Atlantic City went from having 220+ restaurants, bars, clubs and pubs to having less than 60 today, after casinos came in. In Detroit, they've lost 20% of all of their small businesses since they've allowed casinos. Casinos are not the answer. They do not add to the economy - they only redistribute the money already flowing in it (up to 75%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston). Instead of having small businesses, with local ownership, sending their kids to our schools and paying our property taxes, we'll have corporate ownership, shipping people in from all around the country to work at the megaresort casino, instantly infusing hundreds more kids into local schools that almost certainly couldn't handle such a large and quick influx. What part of this sounds like a good economic idea to you, Representative Bowles?


Gladys Kravitz said...

The newest member of the 'brain trust"...

(insert sarcasm emoticon here)

Anonymous said...

Good job of presenting the issues, Ryan!
The international investors going bankrupt in Rhode Island are one and the same proposing the Native American casino in Middleboro.
So, the "brain trust" believes Kerzner and Wollman will do better in the Commonwealth unfettered by rules, regulations, laws, and foolish expenses such as taxes?
The "Brain Trust" should figure out that if they legalize slots/racinos/Class III gaming before dealing with the Tribe or any Tribe, you might as well kiss the state's cut good-bye.
And btw, aren't "racinos" a bailout for the unprofitable race tracks?

Anonymous said...

There is a book called "Without Reservation" that discusses the CT casinos.
When the Aquinnah proposed putting a casino in Cordage Park in Plymouth, the group that opposed the casino sent a copy of the book to each and every legislator.
It's worth the read, but so is doing some independent research that we should expect from our elected officials.

Anonymous said...

The CT DOE school ratings are available online. The failing schools surround the casinos.
It is my understanding that Mohegan Sun recruits low wage wrokers from Asia. The Cape Cod Times, I believe did a worthwhile series about the lack of language proficiency that was so severe, the casinos were forced to offer classes to enable their workers to conduct their jobs.
Foxwoods appears to recruit a wider range of low wage workers and the surrounding schools teach more than 30 different languages 'ESL' classes.
The issues regarding schools seem to be more than an influx of students but also the additional burden of ESL teachers. With standardized testing, it reduces school performance, increases costs and increases the numbers of failing schools.
The union membership seems to overlook that casinos have fought fiercely against the unions - and they've won.

Anonymous said...

Wow it sounds like you people are dissin illegal immigrants. So they can't speak English, they still deserve a job, and they're doing work average Americans won't, isn't that the company line. Have any of you been to any of the casino/racinos, the lots are half full of Mass residents so we are losing money to those states. You say they're going bankrupt, maybe they're just playing the "Chicken Little" game to get concessions from the states. They haven't actually gone bankrupt have they. And even if they were, now they can apply to Barack for some bailout money.
Go visit before you condemn the places, it's good adult entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mike!
It sounds like you're fabricating an accusation that wasn't included. Nowhere is there a comment about illegal immigrants, but rather, the recruitment of foreign workers, in accordance with the law.
No one has a problem with the recruitment of non-English speaking people to fill low wage jobs, as long as the casinos pick up the educational tab, which they don't.
If half of the workers employed by the casinos are low wage workers who don't speak English and each brings a family that includes children, the educational expenses skyrocket.
Review the CT DOE stats and examine the failing schools. They surround the casinos.
If that is the avenue the Commonwealth pursues, local schools need to be adequately funded to provide ESL and special needs education.
We all know that won't happen.
That's just the beginning of costs incurred by local communities that need to be reimbursed.
Funny thing is that when an impartial body, the League of Women Voters that has no dog in this fight, examined the revenue v cost, they discover that for every tax dollar earned in revenue, it COSTS $4.
Ryan posted an article about the Police Chiefs in New Hampshire having the sense to go on record opposing casino gambling because of the increased crime and social costs.
That's just the beginning of the costs.
Casinos are fools' gold!
Any legislator who support slots at tracks or casinos, hasn't done his/her homework.

Anonymous said...

The importance of small businesses can't be overstated.
Each local business has a multiplier of 1.5 to 1.7 for each dollar because it remains local.
Communities that have provided TIFs to big box stores and malls are struggling because the revenue and jobs aren't generated. The dollars exported from the community.

Anonymous said...

Why should the casinos pick up any educational tabs for their workers or their families. Their business provides jobs where there wouldn't be any otherwise. If casinos are so bad and have proven to be so bad, why haven't any states voted them out of existence?

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