Memo to the Treasurer: slots are not recession-proof.

(These have been very interesting and successful threads -- keep it coming.  Review and comment on the entire current platform at this link. - promoted by David)

Haven’t got a lot of time this morning — but, honestly, is this really such a great idea?

State Treasurer Timothy Cahill plans to propose today that the state sell the rights to as many as three slot parlors across Massachusetts…. It would not create the vast number of construction or hotel and restaurant jobs that resort casinos would, making key union support uncertain…. But what they lack in amenities, they make up in immediacy: Slot parlors are often housed in quickly erected, warehouse-like structures that could supply a revenue stream at a time when Massachusetts is suffering its worst budget crisis in decades.

Oh, that sounds great.  ”Quickly erected, warehouse-like structures.”  That’ll really get the tourists flocking.

And, as mentioned in today’s Globe story, slot parlors elsewhere — as in, a few miles south in RI — are doing so badly that they’re on the verge of being taken over by the state.  Even the super-luxe casinos in Connecticut are experiencing hard times.  Yet Cahill’s folks seem unaware of that, offering instead numbers that “are significantly higher than the governor’s 2007 estimate.”

That strikes me as crazy talk.  Don’t you Beacon Hill folks get it?  There is no magic bullet.  This kind of attitude:

“We all know we’re in a recession. This will allow for immediate revenue,” one of the treasury officials said. “It’s cash, and it’s quick cash.”

is going to send us right down the crapper in short order.  Draining disposable income from the folks who happen to live near these “quickly erected, warehouse-like structures” and sending it to “private equity and hedge-fund investors and slot machine operators like Scientific Games Corp. and GTECH Corp.,” even if the state gets a cut, strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.  Let’s just all grow up and figure out the responsible, long-term solution to these problems, shall we?

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15 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. The worst in Massachusetts politics

    Good post, David.  Predatory gambling has found its true champion today in Tim Cahill.  Today's proposal represents the worst in Massachusetts politics.  Rather than propose an honest broad-based revenue increase, Cahill would have us fund state government by preying on problem gamblers at great cost to their families, employers, and communities.  That's not the kind of leadership we need or deserve in Massachusetts.

    If Cahill wanted to be helpful he'd get behind Deval's gas-tax proposal.  But, then, maybe Cahill is fantacizing about challenging Deval in the 2010 primary as some people speculate.  Ain't gonna happen.  Deval would clean his clock.

    --Leo

  2. YUK!

    What idiots!  Are you kidding???

    "Slot parlors are often housed in quickly erected, warehouse-like structures"

    I would never go if that was the case.  It sounds like a stinky liquor smelling, tin sounding hell hole.  If they are going to do it it needs to have the hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, etc.  AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH! Who are these people???  Where is the common sense??? I would rather have nothing than that!  

    • $quot;Where is the common sense??? $quot;

      Don't get carried away.  We're talking politicians here.  Common sense does not apply.  Don't we expect the politicians to say headline stuff rather than attempt to solve problems?  ;o)

      Over 100 years ago the Massachusetts leadership found ways of solving problems that revolved around the need to save money and improve services.  As Boston and other cities and towns grew, the leadership realized the new infrastructure of streets and highways allowed better control for the sake of safety and business.  They realized that Boston needed a larger tax base and merged surrounding towns with Boston.  These former towns are now known as neighborhoods.  

      Does it seem wasteful that we have sovereign cities and towns surrounding Boston that duplicate services?  How much could be saved by merging those services?  New York has its burroughs and Los Angeles has always been a county.  With today's technologies of transportation and communications it makes little sense to duplicate all the services that a city must provide.  Why not merge geographical areas into single political entities?  This idea in being proposed by people in Rhode Island now in an attempt to resolve their financial woes.  Should the idea be considered?

  3. Bleh.

  4. Tim Cahill can launch his bid for Governor from inside one of those hellholes

    Good luck to him. This is a feeble example of crony-based government at its worst.

    There is a good case to be made for casino gambling in Massachusetts. Specifically: why send our money to CT. There are also good arguments against casino gambling. But there is no good argument for a tin shack stuffed full of slots in the parking lot of a shuttered dog track.

    In general, this is the same kind of short-term mentality that the captain and crew of the good ship "Swaptions" so recently demonstrated, before they pulled anchor and sailed off to destinations unknown.

  5. Nothing is recession proof!

    You are missing the point - nothing is recession proof, but the bottom line is that if people who are spending their money in CT and RI, and even NJ, stayed in MA to spend it, we would be a lot better off.

    • But they won't

      Let's assume you are currently going to Foxwoods to gamble on a regular basis.  How much in the hole already do you have to be to give up going to a resort and start going to a warehouse?

      A slot parlor is not going to keep people from going to Connecticut.  It's going to keep people who go to the track or play the lottery in state, where they were anyway.

      • Only the addicts and the very poor will prefer the local warehouse to the resort

        And they will go, again and again and again.  It's bottom feeding politics.  Why not just legalize crack, pass out the first rocks for free, and tax the rest?  Cahill's slogan for his race for Guv is like a limbo: "No matter how low Patrick may bend, I'll go lower."  

  6. A Question for the Treasurer

    I can day-trip it to Foxwoods for about $25.  Why on earth would I choose to spend my time in a "warehouse-like structure" when I can go to a resort casino for twenty dollars more than I can take the T to Wonderland?

    The answer is that I wouldn't do this.  Slot parlors will not and do not compete with Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun, as the folks in Rhode Island well know.  The slot parlors are going to draw from the same pool that the racetracks and the lottery currently draw from.  Now, this may be good news for me personally, since there's a chance that a nearby slot parlor could drive the Keno parlor across the street from me out of business, but I can't imagine it would benefit the state at all.

    I can understand the logic of a resort casino.  Slot parlors are a completely different story, however.

    Not to mention that once we open one slot parlor, the Wampanoags get to build whatever the heck they want.

    • On that last point

      Not so much now that the US Supreme Court has ruled strictly on what tribes are actually recognized to do this (ie before a certain date like eons ago) so the Wampanoags lost their ability to do this, unless the law chnages federally, always a possibility.

      • We'll See

        As I understand it, the decision you're referring to affects only the ability of the Department of Interior to take tribal land into trust.  It does not affect the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

        Or, put another way, a lot more lawyers are going to make a lot more money before it's determined whether the Wampanoags "lost their ability" to do this.  The good news is, though, that it takes the gun away from the state's head to "do something" before an Indian casino sprouts up on its own.

  7. Predatory gambling is unjust whether it's a slots parlor or a casino

    Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the civil rights movement and biographer of Martin Luther King, continues to be one of America's most outspoken voices to stop predatory gambling. Says Branch:

    "State-sponsored predatory gambling is essentially a corruption of democracy because it violates the most basic premises that make democracy unique: that you can be self-governing, you can be honest and open about your disagreements as well as your agreements, and that you trust other people that you are in this together. That's what a compact of citizens is. And the first-step away from it is to play each other for suckers. We're going to trick them into thinking they are going to get rich but they are really going to be paying my taxes."

    To learn about how slot machines work and to hear Branch in his own words, I urge you to watch this brief video clip produced by CasinoFreeMass. After watching it, how is predatory gambling a "sensible" scheme to fund public services that benefit all of us?

    Les Bernal

    • Where do Democrats stand on the corruption of democracy?

      Taylor Branch hits the nail on the head.  State-sponsored predatory gambling undermines democracy.

      Which leads to an obvious question:  Where do Democrats stand on the corruption of democracy?  You can have participatory Democracy.  But you can't have predatory democracy.

      We know where Cahill stands:  With the worst traditions of Massachusetts Democratic politics.

      Can you imagine FDR or MLK supporting slots as a way to fund what we value in common?

      --Leo

  8. here, here!!

    you were just as hard on it as I was! http://www.ryanstake.net/2009/...

    it's a bad idea all around.  

  9. Follow the Money

    One has to wonder whether the Treasurer is corrupt here in proposing what seems like such an awful idea from a policy perspective.

    Who knows what the slot machine companies could come up with for a friend seeking the top office on Beacon Hill?  

    For a summary of his already cozy relationship, see e.g.: http://blogs.bostonmagazine.co...

    How dissapoionting.

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Tue 21 Oct 11:07 AM