Saturday, March 14, 2009

Casinos Don't Make Sense

Here's one of the most amazing posts on casino gambling I've ever read.

First, though gambling is taking place in other states and the lottery, this would be a massive expansion of the most addictive form which would put as many as 5% of the Massachusetts population at risk of new compulsive behaviors. That's as many as 300,000 people - if not you, then potentially your parents, your neighbors, and your kids. In any case, the argument that "two wrongs DO make a right" -- i.e. that if something bad is happening somewhere else we might as well encourage more of it here -- is morally and politically confused.

Second, if the the neurological studies don't convince you that there is a problem, maybe the terms that slot machine manufacturers and casino use will give you some insight. They both work tirelessly to increase a person's "time on device" in order to get a person to "play to extinction" (i.e. exhaust their bank accounts). Some otherwise healthy adults wear adult diapers so they don't have to leave a "hot" machine.

BMass goes on to tackle the 'inevitability' argument, quite convincingly. He also asks people to take up this issue at Democratic Party Platform meetings, which can be found here.

I added an addendum to the post in the form of a comment, one that I think is important enough to include here.

Senator Tucker made an eloquent point at last year's slot hearing. It was one of the most passionate, moving speeches I've ever seen given at a hearing of any kind before. Senator Tucker said that there are four basic tests that we need to consider before passing any sort of tax. Slot machines fail all four:

1. They're volatile. You never know what you'll get in a year, which means your budget is at the constant mercy of the casino lobby.
2. They're unfair. They prey on those who can least afford to pay it.
3. They're expensive to collect. We'd need to build a whole new bureaucratic gambling authority to oversee this mammoth new project. Folks, if you like the Turnpike Authority, you'll love the Gambling one. (Not to mention the huge cost and toll this will take on services within the state, from police to addiction counseling.)
4. It doesn't create new revenue. A slot parlor or casino is largely just a redistribution of the local economy. It's money going from local businesses to the Casino Borg. Instead of having local money have a ripple effect, it becomes money your local community will never see again. This isn't just a tax on users, but on the very local businesses that are the foundation of our cities and towns.

We need to seek stable streams of revenue that are efficient and fair to collect, that don't leech off of other industries that we tax within this state. There are mature and responsible ways of doing that -- but slot machines aren't one of them.

6 comments:

Jerry said...

Hi. I also agree that casinos do not make sense. You can not gamble your states budgets on the sin of gambling. You need to cut the pork spending on Beacon Hill and not have a tax and spend policy as we see today.

Anonymous said...

Ryan,

You continue to do a wonderful job presenting the issues!

I would like to comment that the legislature knew about the ticking time bombs that Weld, Celucci, Romney created.

California has been slashing workers, cutting services, furloughing workers and so on for more than a year.

There has been NO attempt in the Commonwealth to even acknowledge a problem.

Do we see cuts? Do we see an honest debate about the need to lay off or furlough?

No! What we see is a discussion about whether to raise tolls or increase the gas tax.

The Quinn bill needs to be modified to benefit cities and towns.

Towns need to be able to negotiate with unions to accept different health insurance plans, not just a blanket requirement.

Towns need to be granted greater autonomy with unions.

You won't like this one, but with this current budget crunch, libraries need to be able to reduce their hours without sacrificng accreditation. We're all struggling. We need to work together to continue to provide the necessary services without destroying the cities and towns.

The legislature has to wake up, step up to the plate to defend municipalities and do what's right!

Ryan said...

It hurts to lose a community's library, but if a town doesn't have the funds, there's not much it can do. Hands are tied right now.

If that were to happen, though, the state really should look into some protection that allows children from one community to still be linked in the regional library networks. For example, when Saugus lost its library's state accreditation, the rest of the North Shore towns booted them out of the association -- which allowed residents of other towns to take out books from the other libraries. Only one public library had the decency to aid Saugus -- Lynn.

Anonymous said...

anon:
Typical Ryan, he did not address the issues that you raised. Rydog, are you pro union or pro taxpayer? Can't be both dude.

Ryan said...

I didn't discuss California because their problems are much, much different. Their budget deficit is a far larger percentage of their budget and they have far more difficulties in passing a balanced budget because they're required to have a supermajority, not to mention the problems that their citizen petitions have wrought.

I talked about the library aspect because there was common agreement on it -- and a sensible solution to help those who do lose accreditation over the next few years (allow them to have access at other libraries).

However, I'll address the last thing I didn't in my previous comment:

"Do we see cuts? Do we see an honest debate about the need to lay off or furlough?"

Our state has seen yearly cuts to address our yearly deficit. Indeed, the opposite problem has occurred: the only thing we ever do is cut. This is the first year we're honestly talking about some tax cuts, just mainly the wrong kind (a tax on candy isn't going to solve anything). What city or town hasn't laid off or eliminated positions? In my hometown, we've eliminated over 45 positions in the schools alone over the past 3 years -- cuts way beyond the fat and well into the bone. This year, we'll not only see 4 positions eliminated through attrition, but another 3-4 layoffs. So, it'll now be about 55 positions in 4 years. That's more than 10 positions - in just the schools alone - each year, in a very small school system.

Ryan said...

correction: this is the first year we're honestly hearing about tax hikes. (I accidentally said tax cuts.)

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