In the fight for casinos, there's one thing that links all of the proponents – all the different partners in the effort to bring slots of some kind or another to Massachusetts. As little as any of the parties would like to admit it, several of the speakers seemed to own up to it at various points during yesterday's casino hearing, like Bob Haynes, when he said this is about the jobs, “Period.” Or, the lady from the state's Chamber of Commerce, when she lied through her teeth and tried to say that building casinos would actually help local businesses. No one bought it, but it didn't stop her from trying to make something up, something she thought some of her allies would want to hear.
It's The Unquenchable Thirst for More. Some call it greed. The definition I came up with for greed myself, when I first started thinking about what binded this Unholy Alliance, is an intense desire to acquire as many resources as possible, without regard to how they're acquired. It certainly fits the bill for casino proponents in Massachusetts.
Greed. Seem like a strong word? I agree. I don't begrudge anyone for wanting work. I've, at various points in my life, including recently, struggled to find employment. I don't begrudge a business for trying to be profitable; My father and stepmother owned a travel agency for decades and it was exceptionally important to my family's ability to survive. Business does drive the economy – and a good economy means more opportunity for all.
Similarly, I've fought for local candidates in probably dozens of races, all because I care about our state. The ability of our state to maintain its core services is critical – and at risk. I could hardly begrudge State Senators and Representatives for looking under rocks for more revenue.
To some end, all of that is fine. I root for businesses to be profitable. I root for more union jobs – or jobs of almost any kind. I certainly root for the state to find more revenue, to protect and expand all of our core services. However, none of these things happen in a vacuum. A great thirst to excel is a fine thing, but an unquenchable one, one where you'll do questionable things to succeed, is just dangerous.
When does greed become a bad thing? When it starts to blind. When prototypical allies become the opposition because they want something so badly that you can't go along with it, suspect greed. That's what we saw happening here, today. Unions are desperate to add to their numbers, because numbers make them more powerful, not to mention improve the quality of life for workers. I'm desperate for that to happen, too. But going after casinos, creating an unholy alliance with some of the most evil corporations in the world not named “Haliburton” or “Blackwater,” is just being greedy for jobs.
The same goes for the state. At the base, a state is supposed to help protect its citizens. Instead, we have the three leaders of this state trying to form an equal partnership in the profit off our state's vulnerable, addicts. Almost all the profits of the entire industry come from the most frequent players. At Harrah's, 90% of the profit comes from 10% of the players. At some other casinos, it's 80% from 20%. No matter how you slice it, though, casinos live and die off preying on the vulnerable. They prey off them through the use of machines that are psychologically designed by professionals; they're designed to put players into a “zone,” which is a form of a high, and make the games as fast as possible, keeping players playing as long as possible.
The state has not and will not, at least without major backlash, authorize and fund a major, nonpartisan study that looks at all the pros and cons, all the expenses, all the factors, to make sure this is a good idea. Is there any stronger proof that Massachusetts's top politicians have been so driven for revenue that they've become blind than the utter refusal to do this kind of a commission -- to see?
Even the casinos and “gaming” companies are allowing their drive for profits to become a blinding greed. The entire industry pursued a strategy of such rapid expansion that it forgot to be responsible and plan for the future, rationally.
The consequences? It over saturated the market, creating a system where there were rapidly diminishing returns, taking on debt loads that can only be described as gargantuan – all in the drive for more and more, all without care as to how the economy performed, because the industry viewed itself as recession proof. Like I said, blind greed. There is a fine line between seeking profits and greed – and because of the blindness greed can cause, businesses would do well not to be too greedy.
So, we now have a situation where each and every proponent of gambling is pursuing gambling not because it's good policy, but because it seemingly advances one, small part of their agenda. However, because no comprehensive, nonpartisan studies have ever been done by any of these parties, they're blind as to if this will actually help their immediate goals, or any kind of goal. Casinos very well may reduce, not add to, the state's budget – as many nonpartisan academics have found. Casinos may very well end up costing the state jobs, because of the hit to small businesses – and also the very large and real social problems that arise from the ashes of a casino. Finally, even the casino companies could lose out, taking on more massive debt to attempt the construction of a major project in Massachusetts, at the very same time casino revenue is down and over saturization is up. In the end, even if the proponents win, they may lose, because they were too blinded by their unquenchable thirst to see what was right in front of them: This is not a good idea for any of the proponents.