From The Greenfield Recorder
August 1, 2014
Is anybody in the common-wealth paying attention to what’s going on down in Atlantic City, N.J.?
Back in 1976, when the first casino was built in the famous boardwalk city, developers told officials that they’d hit solid gold.
And at first, it seemed to be true. Tens of thousands of gamblers flocked to the Shore, driving down from New York or north Jersey or from Philadelphia. The Turnpike and the Parkway from chock-full of buses, limos and just plain folks eager to try their luck and take in a show or two.
t was just like Las Vegas, only closer.
But it wasn’t.
Every racetrack tout, every pimp with a few bucks in is pocket, every mugger or con man within 200 hundred miles headed for the new casinos.
It wasn’t a Las Vegas crowd, it was a OTB parlor crowd, and crime soared.
The city, using its new tax revenue, put on more cops, and eventually got a handle on things, but without the built-in isolation of the desert that Las Vegas enjoys, it was hard to keep the crooks out and make things safe for the average Joe.
Vegas cops struggle, but Atlantic City never had a chance.
And then, when the economy began to sag and new casinos were built in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, profits sagged, and things really got bad. Shore resort gaming revenue fell from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion last year.
As a result, the Showboat Atlantic City is set to close on Aug. 31 and the Trump Plaza on Sept. 16 ... and the Revel is bankrupt. The city stands to lose about a third of its property-tax revenue — about $75 million — if all four casinos go dark.
As many as 8,000 Atlantic City casino workers could be without work by the end of the summer.
Is anyone in Springfield reading these stories and considering ALL the possibilities?
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ANTI-CASINO GROUP OFFERS FACTS, TOO
by Michael Eagan, Palmer
July 21, 2014
In a recent editorial, Ron Chimelis began with a lifeguard analogy ("Anti-casino group can’t rescue a drowning city," The Republican, July 20, 2014). As a former lifeguard, I can tell you that the first thing lifeguards are taught is to avoid a double drowning. I am convinced that if MGM comes to Springfield, there will be a double drowning.
Why is it that the pro-casino people choose to ignore the economic reality of the casino industry? Almost on a daily basis, The Republican has reported the failures of casinos around the nation particularly in the Northeast. We have read about the four casinos in Atlantic City that are ready to close and the layoffs tha will follow. The list goes on and on, including the struggles in Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island. These failures usually don’t occur without state taxpayer monies first trying to rescue the casinos. In New Jersey, the governor tried to save the Revel Casino from going bankrupt by allocating $261 million of taxpayer money.
A dying industry can’t guarantee long term revenues nor jobs for Springfield or the rest of the state. Laid off casino employees from other struggling casinos in the Northeast will surely look to Springfield for jobs. The negative impact of potential casinos closing in Massachusetts will be a financial burden felt by taxpayers across the state. Why do pro-casino people think we are immune to what is happening elsewhere? All of this negative news about casinos is occurring even before Massachusetts potentially opens three casinos, New York opens four more, and New Hampshire considers casinos on its southern border.
What is plan B when MGM fails in a few years? Will Springfield taxpayers be asked to bail them out because they voted them in, or will all the taxpayers in the state be asked to pay up? Perhaps that’s why all taxpayers are being given the right to vote on this important issue in November.
Several months ago when I attended a forum at the Wilbraham-Monson Academy, state Sen. Gale Candaras was asked her opinion of the MGM casino. She said the casino will bring an economic bounce to the area in the short term, but she is concerned about market saturation in the long term. She feels that hopefully, the casino will be a neutral. This is not a ringing endorsement from someone who voted for the legislation.
Have a safe summer, Ron, and stay out of the water.
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LEGISLATORS GAMBLE WITH BUDGET
by Andy Demore, Stow
Milford Daily News
July 6, 2014
Are Massachusetts state legislators gambling already? Now that there is a chance Massachusetts voters can overturn the expanded gambling law I think we have just seen a glimpse of how our legislators have been enticed by the thought of casinos in our state.
We hear that if the voters overturn the bill there will be budget shortfalls. We understand our lawmakers built budgets in anticipation of gambling revenues. Why would they do that? Isn’t that precisely the lure gambling offers? That next spin of the wheel, the next roll of the dice, it’s sure to be the jackpot! They are already "betting on the come" and planning to spend money we don’t have. Gambling is very seductive. From the sounds of it our lawmakers are already hooked. If our state legislators behave like this now, God help us once they get their hands on all that gambling revenue.
Do you still think we need casinos in Massachusetts? I don’t.
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CASINOS ARE FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL ISSUE
by Brian Herr, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Hopkington
Wicked Local Hopkington
July 5, 2014
In his column July 1 ("The politics of casinos"), Rick Holmes writes there are no federal issues involved in the casino debate in Massachusetts. I would respectfully suggest otherwise. In the last several months three major casinos in the northeast corridor of the United States have filed for federal bankruptcy protection. Prior to these three, and in other parts of the country, casino owners have routinely walked into federal courts seeking various levels of federal bankruptcy protection. When casinos bail out on their financial obligations, thousands of hard working Americans absorb the hit.
Casinos in Massachusetts are also a local issue. Ask any surrounding community that has been ignored by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission as they attempt to ramrod three resort style casinos into the Commonwealth by sheer will, and not by a reasonable democratic process. Casinos in Massachusetts are also a state issue. The obsession with Beacon Hill to balance the state budget on flawed financial models provided by so-called casino industry experts will only lead to further budget battles in the years ahead. And yes, casinos in Massachusetts are a federal issue. Whether it be Native American tribal concerns, the federal interstate system used to provide access to sites, environmental issues, or financial matters, the impact of casinos can be felt at all levels of government.
For several years I have been strongly opposed to the development of resort style casinos in the commonwealth. The issues go well beyond the financial instability of the industry and will be fully vetted by the citizens of Massachusetts between now and November 4th. I look forward to participating in this very public debate as the Republican nominee for United States Senate.
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GAMING THE POOR
by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Director of civil society initiatives at the Institute for American Values
New York Times
June 21, 2014
In a referendum in November, voters approved as many as seven new casinos to join New York State’s existing nine gambling facilities. And New York is hardly alone. In recent years, 23 other states have legalized and licensed commercial (as opposed to Native American) gambling facilities. In the casino-dense Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, where 26 casinos have opened since 2004 and at least a dozen more are under development, most adults now live within a short drive of one.
Not surprisingly, the closer casinos come to where people live, the more likely people are to gamble at one. As casinos have spread into de-industrialized cities, dying resorts and gritty urban areas, the rate of gambling participation has grown among lower-income groups.
In America’s increasingly two-tier economy, casino industry leaders realized that they didn’t have to cater exclusively to well-heeled consumers in order to rake in profits. Payday lending, rent-to-own stores, subprime credit cards, auto title loans and tax refund anticipation loans all evolved to extract high profits from low-income groups. And the newly established state-licensed casinos have their methods, too.
A research team from the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State has conducted studies that offer new evidence of the exploitative effects of casino gambling on lower-income Americans. For example, the researchers found that the rates of casino gambling participation and frequency of visits have increased among lower-income groups. Easy access to casinos is a key factor. Living within 10 miles of one or more casinos more than doubles the rate of problems from excessive gambling. Another factor is easy access to slot-machine gambling. Women and the elderly have become more likely to gamble in recent years, partly because of a preference for nonskill slot-machine gambling.
The casinos’ method is to induce low-income gamblers to make a huge number of small bets per visit, to visit the casino several times per month, or even per week, and to sustain this pattern over a period of years. The key to executing this method is the slot machine.
Most regional casinos are essentially slot parlors. Slot machines are nowadays sophisticated computerized devices engineered to produce continuous and repeat betting, and programmed by high-tech experts to encourage gamblers to make multiple bets simultaneously by tapping buttons on the console as fast as their fingers can fly. Natasha Dow Schüll, an anthropologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has written the definitive work on gambling-machine design, notes that as gamblers deepen their immersion, they become less interested in winning itself than in simply continuing to play.
Slots will accept bets in denominations as small as a penny — one reason they are attractive to small bettors. But even penny bets placed on each of multiple lines for each spin, after hundreds of spins, can result in large losses.
The goal, though, is not to clean out the gambler in a single visit; it’s to provide an experience that will induce the gambler to prolong the time spent on the device. The slots achieve this by carefully regulating the rhythm, tempo and sound ambience of the play, while doling out occasional small wins even as the players’ losses slowly increase.
One way these computerized pickpockets milk their customers is by generating “near misses,” whereby the spinning symbols on the machine stop just above or below the winning payline. The feeling of having come oh so close to a win prompts further play.
A second goal is to ensure that gamblers visit more often and continue to do so over time. Through player loyalty cards and other marketing programs, casinos collect a vast amount of information on their customers. This enables them to devise customized strategies to get gamblers to adhere to this pattern of frequent play over long duration.
Casinos also gather information on their customers’ worth, as well as their “predicted lifetime value.” From this information, we might be able to calculate what percentage of customers come from the bottom half of median income distribution, as well as how much these low-income gamblers lose as a percentage of their income. We might also be able to tell how the regional casinos catering to lower-income gamblers are affecting income inequality in their localities.
The casinos do not, of course, disclose this information, and the states that share in the revenues generated through gambling losses do not press their commercial partners to do so. As a result, the limited data available to the public on the impact of casino gambling has been gathered by a few outside sources.
A large-scale survey of adults, conducted by the Buffalo group in 2000, found that lower socioeconomic and minority groups who visited casinos had more gambling-related problems, including financial difficulties. This suggests that their losses, as a share of their income, were greater than those in the upper income distribution.
Examining 15 types of legal gambling, the researchers came to a striking conclusion: Casino gambling had by far the most harmful effects on people at the lower end of the income ladder.
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead is the director of civil society initiatives at the Institute for American Values.
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MASSACHUSETTS CITIZENS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE ON CASINO
Michael Eagan, Palmer
June 20, 2014
In its June 18, 2014, editorial "Casino holds promise for Springfield," the Republican states that a casino would "hold promise for the city.” The editorial goes on to say that a casino will “deliver economic wealth to a Springfield” Those who have been involved with casinos take an opposite point of view. Mayor Johnson of Ledyard, Conn., home of Foxwoods has said the following: "There has been no economic development spin off from the casino. Businesses do not come here. Tourists come mainly to gamble. Gamblers have one thing in mind: get to the casino, win or lose their money get in their cars and go home.” Steve Wynn, chairman Wynn Resorts, speaking to Connecticut business leaders has said the following: “Get it straight, there is no reason on earth for any of you to expect for more than one second that just because there are people at my casino, they are going into your store or restaurants.” Lastly, Donald Trump says "People will spend a tremendous amount of money in casinos, money that they would normally spend on buying a refrigerator or a new car. Local businesses will suffer because they lose customer dollars to the casino.” Let’s hope that this is not the “promise for the city.”
Previously the Republican has come out against the Repeal of the Casino Law and has now stated that the “law should stand.” The Republican has chosen to ignore other laws and thus misleads its readers. Ten days after the Expanded Gaming Act was passed, an appeal was filed. The casino companies all knew about the appeal, but chose to ignore it. Attorney General Martha Coakley first ruled that the casino question could not go on the ballot. Subsequently, she allowed her decision to be challenged. The final decision will be made by the Supreme Judicial Court ( SJC). All of this was done within the law! The Massachusetts Constitution allows referendum questions.
As of yesterday, all 3 Democratic candidates for governor, including Martha Coakley, believe the casino issue should go to a referendum. This was brought out in a debate held in Boston. Steve Wynn, who is hoping to secure the Boston Casino License favors a referendum because he acknowledges that his casino will draw from the locals. He does not want to build a convenience casino if the locals are not in favor of it. MGM should adopt the same position given the low turn-out of voters last July in Springfield. A state-wide vote would give them a true picture of their customer base.
The Republican is on a slippery slope when it advocates against voters being allowed to vote. It is important that the entire state be allowed to vote since the known negative impacts of casinos extend beyond the host and surrounding communities.
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CASINOS ARE JUST PLAIN BAD NEWS
by Lee Cheek, Egremont
May 19, 2014
Citizens, Beware! The claims made by Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, are extremely misleading ("Casinos will spur state economy," letter, May 15.)
State-sponsored casino gambling is a predatory business model that depends on the repeat business of middle and low income customers who can ill afford such "mainstream entertainment." The largest revenue (up to 50 percent) comes from problem gamblers, whose numbers increase where casinos are operating. Members of Mr. Freeman's association stand to make millions from preying on these problem gamblers. Several states, including nearby Rhode Island, Delaware and New Jersey, have provided taxpayers' dollars and offered concessions that decrease state income to bail out casinos that are failing.
When casinos are built we can expect a range of negative social and economic outcomes. Money spent gambling is not spent at local businesses and entertainment venues. Well-demonstrated social ills create a demand for more social services for the families of problem gamblers. The ill effects spread to a 50-mile radius.
Casinos are just plain bad news for the poor and their neighbors. They tear at our common social fabric. One economist, Earl Grinois of Baylor University, wrote, "This is an industry, like it or not, that is making its money off the sickness of its clients. Government is supposed to be the protector and guardian of the community, not the predator."
We support the current move to allow all Massachusetts citizens to vote whether or not to repeal the state casino law in November.
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STATE REFERENDUM ON CASINO GAMBLING SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED YEARS AGO
by Charlotte Burns, Palmer
May 7, 2014
The argument on behalf of casinos in their case against the Repeal the Casino Deal ballot initiative is that they've invested so much money in licensing fees and other expenses that it's unfair to give voters the possibility of turning them away.
What isn't being brought up is that the state created this situation. Shortly after the legislature and governor legalized casinos Repeal the Casino Deal started organizing for a referendum for the 2012 ballot. But the legislation was written to block this. On the top half of the first page they called it "emergency legislation'" as if getting casinos going was an emergency. Otherwise casino business would have been frozen until the voters decided on the issue. Then they allotted money to the gaming commission. It's illegal to have a referendum on appropriations, also on the top half of page one. The "Repeal" folks were forced to wait 4 years, with casinos spending money left right and center on their bids.
If the state is so concerned about money spent, why didn't they allow this on the ballot 4 years ago, and why didn't they freeze casino business until the people decided. Governor Patrick flip-flopped on this issue the minute he was elected as did most of our legislators as soon as Speaker DiMasi was gone. So much for representative democracy. It just shows you the power of these casinos. Once they're in, they will own this state. Or maybe they already do.
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VOTERS SHOULD HAVE FINAL SAY ON CASINOS
by Swanee Hunt, Cambridge
April 28, 2014
RAY HAMMOND, the highly respected Jamaica Plain minister, once told me, “Casinos suck money out of the hands of the poorest communities and put it into the hands of the rich casino owners.” He could have added that that they are a negative magnet within a neighborhood, attracting corruption and addiction. The test is simple: Who among us would choose to raise our children in the shadow of a giant gambling establishment?
The Massachusetts Constitution gives voters the power to overturn laws by the Legislature, including the one that legalized casino gambling. The mission of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is to lead a judiciary that “assures every person equal assess to the fair, timely, and impartial resolution of disputes.” Public opinion surveys show that that many people want an opportunity to reject the casino law.
The court will soon decide whether that question will be put on the ballot. There clearly is a dispute between many people in Massachusetts and the proponents of casinos, who pushed the bill through the Legislature. Voters should have the final say on whether they want the scourge of casino gambling to be inflicted on Massachusetts.
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MAURA HEALEY: WHY I'M FOR REPEALING THE MASSACHUSETTS CASINO LAW
By Maura Healey - Maura Healey is a Democratic candidate for Massachusetts attorney general
April 14, 2014
The significant law enforcement, consumer protection and public safety impacts of expanded casino gaming in Massachusetts make this a central issue for our next attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of our state.
Therefore, I believe you have a right to know exactly where I, and all the candidates for attorney general, stand on casinos.
I’m strongly opposed. I support repeal of the gaming law. I do not believe a modern economy that creates opportunities for every person can be built on gambling.
The few communities that have voted in favor of casinos are going through tough economic times and many see them as a much-needed boost. But evidence from across the country tells a different story. Casinos don’t lay a foundation for diverse economies, they take over. Local restaurants and entertainment venues lose patrons, other industries steer clear, personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures jump, and the costs for police and related services soar.
I’ve asked people what local businesses they visited during trips to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods and the answer I get back for the most part is, “the gas station.”
Some casino supporters act as if we’ve learned nothing in the years since passage of the gaming bill, but the last three years have, in fact, taught us a lot. We’ve seen several cities and towns resoundingly vote down casinos after the industry operators had a chance to make their best pitch.
All of which begs the question: Are casinos really a good idea if they’re only good enough for certain cities? I live in Charlestown and I’m opposed to a casino there. The voters of East Boston agreed and voted against casinos in Boston. Plenty of state leaders have said the same in their hometowns. I know we can do better for everyone.
There are stronger ways to grow our economy. Infrastructure redevelopment creates construction jobs and yields long-term benefits for residents and businesses. Education and job training allow our state to compete for higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs over the long term. A more progressive tax structure, raising the minimum wage, fighting for pay equity and unionizing our workforce will all do more to support working and middle-class families.
Casinos may even widen the income gap because gambling proceeds are regressive taxes. They disproportionately affect poorer people who have little discretionary money to lose in the first place. No one wants the government to serve as big brother and tell people how to spend their money, but casinos thrive on addictive behavior — just like tobacco companies — and are designed so that people lose. Given all of the evidence about the ills of gambling, I don’t believe in waiting for problems to develop. We need proactive leadership at all levels.
If casinos are built, it will be the duty of the attorney general to help protect the public from the accompanying risks, including loan sharking, predatory debt collection, drug and gambling addiction, and organized crime. I know some of these challenges well from my years running the Public Protection Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office. As your next AG, I will ensure that our newly formed Gaming Division recruits the state’s best lawyers and investigators to combat these challenges. And I believe the gaming industry should pay for the division, no matter what it costs to get the job done.
I will also create a team of investigators stationed full time at the casinos to watch out for abuses just like the teams that Sen. Elizabeth Warren successfully fought to put into the banks to watch out for abusive and deceptive practices.
Recently, the attorney general declared that the repeal petition is not valid to go before the voters. The opinion stated that it is improper to shut down the licensing process now that several casino operators have applied. But voters made a decision to shut down the greyhound tracks with a ballot question and that was an industry that had been running for years. I am not concerned about the well-being of casino operators, I am concerned about the well-being of the residents of Massachusetts.
The final decision is up to the courts, but I believe, on a matter of this magnitude, the voters should have a chance to be heard.
I also know that the worst reason to support casinos that haven’t been built is because we think we’re already stuck with them. If we have to refund the application fees, so be it.
I support repealing the gaming law and moving Massachusetts forward with smart, sustainable economic policies that help everyone.
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GAMBLING HURTS POOR; VOTERS MUST REPEAL LAW
by Les Bernal, National director, Stop Predatory Gambling, Lawrence
February 9, 2014
IT IS no surprise that out-of-state, multibillion dollar casino interests are spending huge sums to block Massachusetts citizens from voting on a casino repeal (“Casino firms to fight repeal effort,” Page A1, Jan. 27).
What is also no surprise is the mounting pile of independent evidence revealing that government policies promoting casinos are contributing to unfairness and inequality in our nation. It is harming health, draining wealth from people in the lower ranks of the income distribution, and contributing to economic inequality. These are among the findings of recent report from the Council on Casinos , an independent group of scholars convened by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank.
Casinos spend billions of dollars on lawyers, polls, public health research, donations to influential nonprofits, lobbying, media relations, and advertising. But despite this unparalleled spending, they cannot change the ironclad fact that casinos produce unfairness and inequality.
It’s not a matter of if casinos will be repealed in Massachusetts, but when. It’s inevitable.