Sunday, September 20, 2009

Will Beacon Hill Make an Informed Decision on Casinos?

As important as preventing casinos in Massachusetts is to me, I could honestly be happy if whatever decision is made were made by a group of legislators making informed decisions. The fact is, though, most of the talking points and studies out there on casinos come from biased sources, even the studies that would appear to be unbiased.

Nothing is more illustrative of this fact than UMASS Dartmouth Professor of Public Policy, Dr. Clyde Barrow. He's written more studies on casinos in Massachusetts than possibly anyone and they've been very favorable to the industry, but here's the cold, hard facts.
  • Clyde Barrow works privately for the industry. Clyde's home address in Fall River is the same address of Pyramid Associates. Pyramid Associates was paid a total of $15,000 for an "economic impact study" by Maine's Yes on 2 campaign in 2008, funded in large part through Olympia Gaming, the Las Vegas group that bankrolled Yes on 2. Barrow also, reportedly, appeared at a press conference and public meetings on behalf of the campaign. [Update: That link isn't working anymore, but this one does.]
  • Barrows doesn't include his private, industry jobs on his extensive, public resume at his UMASS Dartmouth page, despite their relevance.
  • Barrow's Center for Policy Analysis studies on gambling, which frequently appear on the industry's own website in Massachusetts, are also compromised financially. As recently as March of 2009, Barrows did a study through his center that was favorable of the industry. Included in that report, for those who actually bother to read it, is the fact that the funding comes from the Center's clients, read: lobbyists.
    "The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis is a multidisciplinary research unit that promotes economic, social, and political development by providing research and technical analysis in the areas of economic development, public management, program evaluation and polling research for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private businesses and educational institutions.... The Center for Policy Analysis does not pursue a predetermined research agenda, but is a flexible research organization responding on a timely basis to the problems and issues identified by client agencies."
  • For all of Clyde Barrow's UMASS Dartmouth resources, there's very little accountability. The Center for Policy Analysis's Advisory Board is comprised of a great deal of people who have a bone in this fight: Senators Murray and Pacheco, for example. Not only do these politicians not mind Barrows waging this war by using the University to make himself appear an unbiased observer, but they gain from it and use his studies as justification to support their political agendas. It's smart politics, but the Center is an organization that should exist separate from politics.
Barrows is not alone. The Labor Resource Center at UMASS Boston created a study asking "Can Casinos Bring 'Good Jobs' to the Commonwealth?" The results here, again, are mostly favorable. Yet, the results here, again, are also funded through the industry and biased sources.
  • The study was funded by The Construction Institute and the The Future of Work in Massachusetts project, which is funded through the UMASS system's President's Office.
  • While I'm sure The Construction Institute is a great organization, they have an obvious stake in this fight. It's an organization that wants to build really big things and expand union labor. Need I say more?
  • The Future of Work in Massachusetts seems like a great arm of the UMASS Boston Labor Center, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum either. The funding comes from the (Romney-Appointed, often political) President's Office, which comes from the Commonwealth's coffers (to the tune of $1.2 million) -- which means we'll probably never know just who was responsible for that funding. Furthermore, the labor movement appears to be very involved in this project, a movement which is very biased when it comes to the question of casinos.
Governor Patrick made two attempts to "study" casinos in Massachusetts. The first was a retread of many the other studies done, bringing in "experts" and using their numbers - which led to the 30,000-person joke of a job claim. The second was his Spectrum Gaming Report, perhaps the closest thing to a comprehensive study done in Massachusetts, yet produced by a company that works for the industry. Useless. That was almost as bad as when Representative Flynn boasted at a casino hearing I attended that he had never even gone to the Connecticut casinos or racino in Rhode Island. He actually saw that as a plus in his argument to legalize them in Massachusetts.

Studies shouldn't be dismissed out of hand and there are many people on Beacon Hill who are doing their due diligence, some of which probably sit on the other side of this issue. However, it's clear that all too many don't have the important facts, in great part because we haven't commissioned a comprehensive, unbiased study to find them. Given that it's undeniable that casinos will have a huge and likely irreversible impact on the state, it's important for legislators to get this decision right. The question has to be if casinos are worth it. As of yet, there's no substantive, unbiased study to show that they are worth it. Without that evidence, legislators should vote no.


Middleboro Remembers said...

Bear with me on this one, Ryan. It's not unrelated.

As a resident of Middleboro, I am concerned about the poor air quality and elevated asthma rates.

There are 2 coal fired power plants to our south, as you know.

During commuting hours, all area roads are gridlocked.

In the summer, Cape Cod traffic gridlocks the roads a bit more.

Any accident paralyzes traffic.

Glenn Marshall proposed a Mega Casino that would draw 50,000 vehicles per day by his proclamations, exacerbating air quality.

During the hot weather in August, the air quality was intolerable.

A power plant, proposed by a foreign based company, in Brockton that will burn both diesel fuel and gas, along with spewing
1,600,000 Gallons of Treated Sewage Water Mist Into Our Air Everyday From cooling towers has been determined by the State Siting Board as unnecessary.
(Check out stop the plant for additional information.)

Clyde Barrow comes along with a poll, paid for by the proponents that received widespread criticism, but confirmed the desires of the power company.

The questions were slanted, sampling too small and failing to indicate proximity to the proposed power plant and so on.

But Barrow's poll proved a majority wanted this source of pollution that will only provide
20 jobs, but will fill the already contaminated air with additional

Most of us have reached adulthood digesting polls that were transparent -- they released the questions, sampling techniques and so on.

Each poll Cyde Barrow conducts seems shrouded in mystery, unless I missed something.

You've composed a well researched article about Clyde's current focus - predatory gambling, but you might want to watch for his future ventures. His services seem available for the right price. Who knew Clyde was also an expert in energy?

Middleboro Review said...

FYI ---
Opponents question survey

Survey says little about power plant

An anonymous poster pointed out the curious connection between the Liberty Square Group, Scott Ferson, Mashpee Wampanoags, former Brockton Mayor Yunits, Brockton Power Plant. Add Clyde Barrow.

The former Brockton Mayor Yunits was among the 3 candidates considered for Town Manager of Middleboro.

My recollection is that former Mayor Yunits indicated he wasn't terribly interested in the position without the proposed casino (and actually, he lacked the experience needed for the position).

Anonymous said...

We elect our leaders to make decisions. Fortunately in Mass we have such an overwhelming representation from the party that has the real interests of the people at heart, that I'm sure things will work out. With our sagacious leadership we can be sure they won't cave in to any special interest groups or make any deals with the devil to make short term gains. See you at the opening of "Slots of Fun"

Anonymous said...

Pacheco, Barrows, Mury, Flyn.....are not working for Massachusetts are they.

Expanding gambling is a huge issue, fed by greed. Have our politicians not learned at what happens when you allow greed or unions to decide?

Middleboro residents, not their selectmen did their homework. Middleboro does not want a casino, but anyone with something to gain will say otherwise.

Look at what is driving this? Casino's and Slots are a regresive tax where MA will lose.

Did anyone see the 60 minutes special on Wynn Casino?

The owner does not gamble or use his own product. This product almost ruined his father.

He commented "He has never seen anyone leave his casino, with winnings".

Therefore Casino product losers. Does MA politicians want to create losers?

Losers like company I guess, so keep an eye on whom support this insane idea of casinos or slots and vote them gone.

If no one runs against them write in Mickey Mouse.

What a joke thinking expanding gambling s a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Good idea to have an imaginary candidate.

Imagine the message this would send to those politicains no one ever runs against.


Does anyone have a better candidate idea?

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