$100 million?

The Weekly Dig does more, uh, digging, and discovers that a casino in Middleborough is not exactly the cash bonanza it's made out to be: $100 million.

A million here, a million there, and sooner or later you're talking real money. But not yet.

-The state's operating budget this year is $26 billion. The casino would bring in 1/260 of that amount. 

–$100 million would be only 25% more money than what we get now from the taxes on alcoholic beverages, which this year totaled $72 million. 

–$100 million is less than a quarter of the haul we get from taxes on cigarettes, which gave the state $426.3 million this year. 

–It would be about a tenth of what we get from the lottery, which was $1.1 billion this year. (Incidentally, the Globe article calls the Wampanoag casino a “$1 billion casino resort.” We'll only see a tenth of that billion.) 

And what’ll $100 million a year buy? 

–Not quite the yearly interest we pay on the debt for the central artery, which this year was $112,596,000. 

–Or, less than 1/7 of the state’s share of group insurance, which this year cost $736,866,118. 

–Or, the costs of the retired municipal teachers’ premiums and the audit of such premiums, which this year cost $83,926,853. (In other words, hardly the cash infusion into the school system State Rep. McCarthy thinks it is.) 

–Or, a sixth of the Green Line extension to Somerville, which will cost $600 million. 

 

 Even the tax-phobic plain ol' incoherent Jon Keller would rather see a tax hike than create all this hassle for a measly $100 mil.

Not worth the trouble, Deval. But you know that, don't you? The longer he waits, the less likely this thing becomes. 

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27 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I'm still agnostic on the casino issue generally,

    but I have to say that I find this particular line of argument uniquely unpersuasive.  There's no doubt that casinos will generate some substantial number of jobs and other economic benefits.  To argue that the direct benefit to the state's coffers is "only" $100 million a year, on top of the millions of dollars of indirect benefit, just doesn't do much for me.  I mean, come on -- 1/7 of the state's share of GIC?  That means that the casino could pay for health insurance for how many more thousands of MA residents?  1/6 of the Green Line extension?  Shoot, that doesn't sound bad to me -- that money's got to come from somewhere, if we're going to build the bloody thing.

    And remember -- we're talking $100 million a year, not in total.  So in 6 years a casino could pay for the Green Line extension.  Is that really so bad?

    I did, though, find Keller's post highly amusing.  Aside from the notion that $100 million a year is "chump change," check this out:

    wouldn't the Patrick administration better serve the notion of telling hard truths by shunning the regressive taxation of casinos in favor of an all-out push for a broad-based tax hike (Sales? Corporate?) that could generate the hundreds of millions of dollars we need to fix the roads, improve education, etc?

    You can call casinos "regressive taxation" all you want, but that doesn't make it true.  Taxes by definition are not voluntary -- you must pay them, or else the government will do something bad to you.  And yes, there are some compulsive gamblers out there for whom voluntariness may be absent in a different sense, but the percentages are fairly small, from what I've seen.  Most people who gamble do so because they want to.  I know all about the statistics showing who it is that actually spends their money on gambling.  But that doesn't make it a "tax," regressive or otherwise.  I'm especially surprised to see Keller, not normally one to forgive individual foibles so easily, take this line.

    • I am a fellow agnostic...

      ...and there is one unstated factor here.

      The Commonwealth is not supposed to be the primary beneficiary of the casino under the terms of the Indian Gaming Act; the Tribe is.  So, for a subsidiary benefit, $100 million isn't bad. 

       

      • I thought $100 million sounded good

        Not bad? I don't have any expertise and couldn't find anything in a few quick searches, but $100 million annually seemed really good to me. How many Massachusetts companies add $100 million directly to the state budget every year the way this casino would? Are there a lot?

        If they put it out to bid for private companies and then taxed and regulated the hell out of them, how much could they raise annually?

        I don't gamble beyond the occasional $5 when the lottery goes really high, but I've never seen compelling evidence that casino gambling should be prohibited from Massachusetts.

        The jobs that would be created, the tourism that would spike other businesses and the pile of money generated for the state--no matter how high--are secondary to me. Very compelling, but secondary.

      • Bummer

        The Tribe isn't the prime beneficiary.  They'll get some scratch for serving as a legal mechanism, but it's Harrah's that scores from this deal.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • All fine and good

      But what is it going to cost us?

       

      The state will be rquired to set up a new didvision within the Dept of Public safety for gaming. Then they will have to staff it. Then they will be required to expand the size of the state police to enforce a myriad of laws.

      Dept of Corrections will get an increase in census re all of the attendant crimes that are directly related to gambling. Increased fire and police  in Middlebrough along with increased costs. Public works etc.

       So what is the legitimate and real costs? I could care less about "expected" tax revenue. I want to know what the "net" is---the bottom line. 

      Massachusetts has a propensity to get bit in the ass by the law of unintended consequence on a regular basis---read: Big Dig.

       

      • We don't have gaming staff in MA now?

        Not sure if a "new" department needs to be created as you state.  Part of the 11 million package (for the town) discusses and includes increases for police and fire and new equipment.  It's been discussed a detailed here before.

      • The true net costs

        include lots more than just the costs to the Commonwealth.

        There are the impacts on Middleborough and surrounding towns and the costs to society of increased crime and poverty.

        Crime costs society much more than just the cost of a criminal-justice system. Poverty costs more than state welfare programs. (If that were not true we could eliminate the cost of crime and poverty by ending these state and local programs.)

        To be fair, the benefits also include more than just the revenues to the Commoweath, too. A real cost-benefit analysis would put a value on every cost and benefit. Then we would know what we were talking about.

          

        • To be honest

          Instead of the platitudes about "the costs to society" why not give some real statistics and analysis.  We have to perfect case studies less then 100 miles southeast of Boston.

          • numbers? you're so cold

            You can't quantify saving someone's soul. /sarcasm

            • Can't tell

              if you are being sarcastic or serious.

              • mocking

                I feel like many gambling opponents are trying to save everyone's soul from the dangers of gambling.

                I'd like people to be free to make their own decisions about whether they want to gamble or not.

                • Strawman.

                  I'm against casinos in MA. I don't give a whit about their souls -- I care about some people ruining their lives and families because of gambling addiction, which is very real. I just don't think the state should be in that business -- certainly not any more than it already is. If we want to raise revenue, we should do it the fair and equitable way, where everyone pays his share, not where some are induced to sacrifice their entire livelihoods, which is indeed what will happen with casinos.

                  It's hard to have an honest discussion when you distort the crap out of other folks' opinions.

                  • Again with the platitudes

                    but there is no substance to your post.  Just like Trickle up's.  Can you show one case of people who "sacrifice their entire livelihoods" from either of the two casinos in CT?  Moreover, can you show any significant increase in the number of people who "sacrifice their entire livelihoods" to casinos over those that already do so at the track, on lottery, on scratch tickets, on Keno, on Bingo or any of the other means of gambling we now allow.

                    As I asked above, we have two perfect case studies on the effects of allowing Indian casino gambling about 100 miles to the southeast.  Where is the empirical data from any studies on these casinos?

                    And talk about a strawman, "I just don't think the state should be in that business".  Who is suggesting the State be in the business of casinos?  Opponents of the casinos are just asking that people be allowed to pursue private ventures in gambling on private property as is already allowed in the state, just in a insignificantly different form.

                    How condescending and hypocritical to follow that with "It's hard to have an honest discussion when you distort the crap out of other folks' opinions."  As if your not doing the exact same thing.

                    • n/t

                    • grrr. stupid italics

                    • Do you honestly doubt ...

                      that the presence of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun has not created its share of gambling addicts? I think it beggars belief to imagine that they've been benign. But if you're asking the question, you should answer it -- do no such cases exist? Anecdotal evidence is a piece of cake -- a simple Google search turns up a reprint of this 1999 op-ed from the ProJo:

                        Compulsive gamblers are usually good people who have become trapped in an addiction every bit as destructive as alcoholism.  A young man from Pawtucket told police that he had been robbed at gunpoint to avoid admitting to his family that he had been to Foxwoods and lost $4,000 he had borrowed from friends for his daughter's medical expenses. 

                        To support his gambling at Foxwoods, a janitor at an elementary school in East Providence stole money from funds collected for the student yearbook. The treasurer of the North Providence police union embezzled $43,000 for his gambling habit. A city employee in Warwick embezzled money from the city to cover her husband's gambling debts.

                        A Providence lawyer embezzled $530,000 from an elderly aunt. He frequented Foxwoods, but he was arrested at a casino in the Bahamas, leaving his ex-wife and his children without support. A judge on Rhode Island's traffic court spent more time at Foxwoods than on the bench. Despite his salary of almost $94,000 per year, he declared bankruptcy. 

                      I doubt you can cite to me cases of people embezzling many thousands of dollars to play the lottery, but knock yourself out. Bring the substance, JK. 

                      If the state actively decides to legalize a form of gambling based on its prospective gains from such activity, the state is morally implicated. I just don't even see how that can be argued otherwise. It's a moral choice either way.

                  • why gambling?

                    Aren't there more immediate and dangerous challenges to the families you care about saving, whether economically or morally?

                    Cars? 

                    Alcohol?

                    Cigarettes?

                    Trans-fat?

                    All of these can hurt not only the user, but innocent bystanders, in the form of getting hit while crossing the street, second hand smoke or annyoing people who stand too close when they talk to you.

                    Worried about who gets involved in the gaming industry? Sorry pollyanna. Name a business and there will be corruption, greed and crooks. For every Glenn Marshall conspiracy uncovered by Dan Kennedy and his pals, there's an equal or more egregious example in financial services, manufacturing, retail, construction, insurance, restaurants, movie production, music production, cattle farming, stock exchange, auto sales...you get the picture. They shouldn't be excused, but industries shouldn't be eliminated because of them.

                    Some people ruin their lives and the lives of their families because of addictions to television, religion, porn or sex. I await your crusade on those issues.

                     

                     

                    • Arguing by analogy

                      The onus is on you to demonstrate exactly how those other activities are analogous to the state approving a casino. Otherwise you're avoiding the question.

                    • right back at you

                      I don't feel an onus to demonstrate anything. From what I've seen and read (though not here), the majority of citizens support (or are at least ok with) casino gambling being made available in Massachusetts, whether they themselves gamble or not.

                      So if you want to over-ride the opinion of the majority of citizens in a democracy, I think you need to show compelling evidence to do so.

                      I haven't seen compelling evidence that casino gambling is a significant danger to reasonable, consenting citizens who choose to gamble. 

          • Sorry, I don't have 'em at my fingertips

            and I have billable work today.

            But I can tell you that ignoring the costs is the same as counting them as zero. 

            To the best of my knowledge and belief, that is not correct. 

    • So what chapter in Keller's book....

      Does he talk about wanting to raise taxes?

    • You forget, David

      About the costs of the casinos, as well.

      They'll want state money for roads, police and all sorts (it's the roads that will cost a lot). More importantly, they'll get it. Then, these state legislators will come home to their constituency boasting about how they got the state to spend millions on these casinos, which are making literally billions.

      Then there's another large cost - you talked about how there are indirect benefits not calculated in the 100-million dollar figure. Maybe, but there are also the same indirect detriments as well. Literally hundreds of people will probably lose jobs when the casino comes in - and many of these jobs likely paid better and certainly supported local communities in ways that a mega casino will not. I don't think there's a more important statistic when talking about casinos than what happened to Atlanta: they went from having about 200 restaurants, clubs and bars to having about 50, after casinos came in. People will stop going to whatever local entertainment and dining facitilities that exist... and start going to the casino - and their shopping, restaurants, clubs and bars. It won't just effect Middleboro, but the entire region of Massachusetts.

  2. I sincerely do not understand...

    ...your desire to compare expected revenues from a casioo with the proposed Green Line extension to Somerville.  That would be considered a capital project: it should be bonded and the bonds paid off over decades from MBTA revenues. It should not be compared to an operating budget, which you are suggesting the Somerville extension to be.

  3. $100 million per year

    Could pay for much of the Governor's education agenda. 

    *Means-tested pre-K *Subsidy of districts which want longer school days

  4. Could one of the proprietors here...

    please close what is obviously an unclosed HTML italic signal in the comment at JK @ Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 15:49:36 PM EDT

    It is confusing.  We plebes do not have the power to do that.

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