Thursday, April 01, 2010

Tell the Truth About Casinos and Slots

The "super-secret" bill which DeLeo won't talk about in any detail, giving cover and time to those who switch their votes, so there's as little time as possible to move against him, is going to again be based on fake numbers, as I write about at Blue Mass Group. Each year, proponents of slot machines boast about all the money we lose to Connecticut and all the money we could reap should we legalize them in Massachusetts -- and each year, those numbers are based of Clyde Barrow's work at UMASS Dartmouth, on behalf of the Center for Policy Analysis. And each year those numbers have been crap. How so?
  • The methodology is deeply flawed, with a study supposedly representative of the entire year, taking place on a 5-day holiday weekend (President's Day).
  • The study counts license plates and uses the proportion of drivers as the proportion of income, without trying to figure out how drivers from different regions spend their money differently (ie if locals, addicted to slots, spend more, and if Massachusetts drivers are going there for the shows and other non-gambling entertainment, which have negligible profit margins at best).
  • The annual report never, ever looks at the costs associated with casinos -- the hundreds of millions it would take to offset losses to the state lottery, create a new state bureaucracy that would need a 1,000-person staff (according to the Attorney General), cover the legal costs and potential jail time relating to the thousands of thefts, drunk drivers, embezzlements and other crimes related to costumers at the casinos, never mind local costs to regional communities.
There's little wonder why Speaker DeLeo won't allow a comprehensive, independent cost-benefit analysis. He's afraid the revenue projections he uses -- provided by Barrow's reports and his friends at the two tracks in his district -- won't live up to the hype. He's afraid people will notice that the benefits won't offset the costs. He's worried, in essence, that people will realize his ethically-questionable special district interest is not in the best interest of the Commonwealth.

No wonder now that, according to Jim O'Sullivan of the State House News Service, the Speaker is now considering a measure to skip out on his racino quest, if he can't get enough House and Senate members on board, and just go even more brazenly for the something-for-nothing scheme -- just giving a load of cash directly to the old tracks.
One theory cropping up among senior legislators and lobbyists is that DeLeo, if he cannot muster a veto-proof majority, could wait for Patrick to send back a slots veto – a move that could benefit Patrick among the progressive base that has frowned on “convenience gambling” even as it clamors for increased funds for state services. Or, if slots don’t clear the House-Senate compromise panel, DeLeo could be forced to act earlier.

The speaker could then propose, according to this scenario, a way to preserve jobs at the tracks without granting slot machines: by supplementing their existing live racing and simulcast betting purses with cuts from the new tax base created by casino revenues.
Free money for the race tracks. Can I get some?

That's what this is and always was about. DeLeo wants his bill to benefit his two tracks. That's all he cares about. Whether we do this by giving those two tracks a noncompetitive bid on slots, ruining the chances of getting a big licensing fee for any slot enterprise, or we just give those slots the pot 'o gold at the end of the rainbow matters not. This was never about doing good for Massachusetts, this was only ever about special interests in a lobby that's let the flood gates open. Will the citizens of Massachusetts stand for it any longer?


Anonymous said...

Now is when I'm glad the Democrats have such a large majority in our state, surely they wouldn't do anything without the best interest of the whole state at heart. The checks and balances in place, the House, the Senate, the Governor, we'll be safe.

Ryan said...

The only problem with that theory is that this issue doesn't actually correlate well with either party. Case in point: Mitt Romney wanted slots, too.

Note: As die-hard Democrat as I am, I would love to see more competition in the state of Massachusetts, no matter where it comes from, because I think it helps make everyone better. As for the Republicans, I wish they'd try to be a part of the solution nationally, instead of being the Party of No. It's sad to see someone like Brown going from voting for Massachusetts's health care reform bill and then running against the national version of that very bill for what had to be political, not policy, reasons. There is, believe it or not, more than one Republican I respect in the Bay State -- I'd just have a very, very tough time saying the same thing nationally.

Anonymous said...

This isn'n national, it's a state issue. State totally controlled by Democrats. Can't blame Mitt for what he didn't do. If it happens it's Deval who'll pull the trigger( oh wait that's inflamatory) I mean pull the handle.

About Ryan's Take