BMG on casinos, part 1

UPDATE 4/7/10: Realizing now how many great posts I never saw or forgot about for this list, like Gladys Kravitz’s citizen journalism exposing the top players in the slots legalization effort. Also included Les Bernal’s “Top Ten Gambling Practices” in the list below. Please let me know about other ones I missed, these are both excellent diaries.

Like a lot of Bluemass readers, I have been following the debate over expanded gambling, slots, and casinos on and off ever since Governor Patrick proposed three resort casinos in 2007. There have been some amazing discussions here on BlueMass, but a lot of them have been lost below the fold over time.

The purpose of this post is to summarize the top posts about casinos to use as a reference point for readers deciding about casinos and getting involved in the final week before the vote. I have included my own summary of the entry along with each link. This post is about the most compelling anti-casino entries. There will be a separate post on pro-casino entries, although there are far fewer of those.

Anti-casino posts, organized chronologically:

May 25, 2007 – Why I have opposed casinos in the Commonwealth

by Dan Bosley, Representative and candidate for Sheriff from North Adams

Representative Daniel Bosley immediately dispenses with the moral arguments against casinos and describes the top five economic reasons why casinos are a poor investment for Massachusetts. In order:

1) The “everyone is doing it so we need to” argument is a red herring,

2) The loss of lottery revenue (up to 17%) for local aid,

3) Of the supposed $100 mil we would recapture from CT, $75-80 mil would have to go to a Gaming Commission and even more towards the social costs,

4) The drain on the local economies in the state, especially within a 50 mile radius of the casino, and

5) Gambling expansion breeds gambling expansion, and once we legalize this there are many, many more slots and casinos to come.

He closes by saying “We can do better than looking to gambling to balance our budget. This really is a sucker’s bet.”

Sep 24, 2007 – BostonBiz on casinos: “Cynical and cowardly”

by Charley on the MTA, BlueMass Editor

Charley passes along an economic thrashing of slots and casinos from the Boston Business Journal. They point out what they call the “fundamental fallacy” of gambling revenue; that “casinos generate new money that falls out of the sky”. Instead, the BBJ argues, casinos absorb money that would ordinarily be spent on consumer goods, entertainment, and other local goods and services.

BBJ: “Taxing the poor through casinos is cynical and cowardly. …a policy that will hurt many businesses and diminish even more lives in the commonwealth.”

Feb 13, 2008 – Bailey “gets it”

by bumpkin

A short entry highlighting a Steve Bailey article in the Globe about the MTA, who supported casinos while one of their accountants embezzled $804,000 from them to feed his gambling addiction. The loss at MTA was covered by a MA insurance firm, and the MTA racked up an additional $300,000 in legal fees. Interesting look at the higher level financial crimes Attorney General Martha Coakley said we should expect more of if this gets legalized here.

Mar 13, 2008 – An invitation to keep Massachusetts “Casino Free” and a video to make you proud

by Laura Everett

Laura introduces us to herself and makes a plug for Malden and the values that motivated her to join Casino Free Mass. The entry also includes a great video of MA comedian Jimmy Tingle laying out a case AGAINST casinos and FOR Massachusetts.

Laura: Casinos were definitely not in my top 10 issues but the truth is the more you look at this, the more you see how it touches the top issues we all care about.

Apr 15, 2009 – Casinos are going BANKRUPT all across the USA!!!

by AmberPaw

A list of links to stories of casinos going bankrupt in Detroit, Nevada, and Trump casinos during this recession. She also uses the word “greedosaur,” which i don’t necessarily approve of, but the overall point is that casinos were not a reliable source of revenue during the recession for the states who bought in to them.

AmberPaw: It is not “Kaching” it is “KaBoom” – the sound of casinos imploding.

Sep 21, 2009 – The Top 10 Best Practices in the Predatory Gambling Trade

by StopPredatoryGambling

Les Bernal, former Chief of Staff for Senator Susan Tucker and founder of Stop Predatory Gambling highlights the top 10 industry practices designed to get and keep as much money from problem gamblers and casual gamblers as they can. This rundown is a great read on some of the stuff happening behind the scenes of international casino corporations.

The top 3:

1) Base your business model on 90% of the gambling profits coming from 10% of the people

2) Design slot machines to “approach every player as a potential addict”

3) Always make the political argument be about jobs, revenues and “inevitability”…

That number 3 sounds familiar.

Oct 26, 2009 – A Letter from Somerville To My Friends Throughout the Commonwealth – from Bob Massie

by bmass

Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994 Bob Massie details his strong opposition to slots and casinos from his perspective as a “proud and progressive Democrat” working on social justice issues for over thirty years. He describes his disappointment with the inaction of Governor Patrick, the unions (for ignoring that slots replace workers), the churches, Common Cause, and (because of the timing) every Democratic nominee for Kennedy’s Senate seat except Khazei. Editor Charley called this piece a “cri de coeur vs. casinos”, which according to google translator means “A cry of the heart vs.. Casinos”. As user Ryepower12 pointed out in the comments, the essence of this post is the line:

Bob Massie: “None of us can escape the simple truth that how we raise money to pay for public services says as much about our values as how we spend it.”

Mar 03, 2010 – Resort casinos will bring down the curtain on performing arts centers

by Troy Siebels, Executive Director of the Hanover Theatre in Worcester

The Director of a Worcester theater details the impact of resort casinos on local entertainment options and smaller venues for the performing arts. Theaters like his, along with restaurants and other small businesses, will be forced to close in the same way as Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and casinos in Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and California forced the local options out of business.

In short, “Casinos will bring in dollars – Massachusetts dollars – that will then go to out-of-state casino owners.  Those are dollars that won’t be spent at Massachusetts restaurants, hotels and theatres.”

Mar 21, 2010 – David and Goliath or Ms Norbut Prevails

by JPowell

JPowell chooses to highlight the Boston Globe profile of Kathleen Norbut, the founder of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, who successfully stood up to the casino industry when Governor Patrick first proposed them and now continues the fight in the much more difficult situation against Speaker Robert Deleo.

He goes through a laundry list of reasons to oppose casinos, including studies that 90% of the profits come from 10% of the patrons, casinos across the c
ountry have been failing and laying off workers, the ancillary costs of casinos from increased crime, bankruptcies, suicides, family dysfunction, increased child abandonment, neglect and abuse, increased spousal abuse, increased costs for oversight, investigation, prosecution, incarceration and court costs.

Mar 29, 2010 – Will Beacon Hill Make an Informed Decision?

by Ryepower12

Ryepower12 breaks down the methodology of slots-proponent Clyde Barrow, who conducted the most recent “patron-origin analysis”. He concludes that there are multiple problems with the methodology, including 1) That the entire basis for the revenue percentages comes from counting license plates outside…. the… casinos. Apparently the estimate for how much money is spent in CT by MA residents has been based on taking the total revenue and multiplying it by the percentage of MA license plates some grad students counted. Ryepower12 found other problems, but this is math and statistical abuse at its worst.

Or as Ryepower12 puts it, “when Barrow says, at the very beginning of his paper, that the Center for Policy Analysis does ‘not to pursue a predetermined research agenda,’ it’s very hard to take Professor Barrow seriously.”

Apr 02, 2010 – DeLeo likes ponies

by Charley on the MTA, Editor

Charley highlights a Commonwealth Magazine piece on the exaggerated revenue claims for casinos, including the “conservative” estimate from DeLeo that puts Massachusetts casinos on course to become the world’s most profitable almost immediately.

In fact, says Commonwealth Magazine, according to DeLeo’s numbers “the total spent on gambling in the state’s two proposed casinos and four racinos would dwarf gambling expenditures in every state but Nevada, which hosts 266 casinos.”

Charley also hints at the Speaker flexing his power to flip the 108 (of 160) members who voted against casinos in 2008. Some of the comments here name names of Reps who are on record speaking against casinos but who are being pressured to vote for them this time.


Any particularly important posts I missed? Which are most interesting to you?

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20 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Thanks

    You had me at "summarize". Nicely done post.

  2. Professional Sports Wagering

    For a variety of reasons (most outlined above), I'm not a big fan of casino gambling.  But if Massachusetts is going to legalize gambling, then we should do it right.   Should Massachusetts decide to authorize resort casinos, then we should also specifically allow a sports book - that is, allow wagering on professional sports.  

    I support a sports book for professional sports at Massachusetts resort casinos for the simple reason that it would provide a clear competitive advantage for Massachusetts.  Right now, Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and Twin Rivers do not have a sports book.  Having a sports book would attract not only  Massachusetts residents who frequent Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and Twin Rivers today, but would also attract many out-of-state gamblers.  Except for wagers on dogs and horses, the only other sports books in the United States are in Nevada.  Allowing a sports book will, no doubt, attract more customers throughout the Northeast.  Bids for a resort casino license would definitely be much, much  higher with a professional sports book included.

    Having a professional sports book at Massachusetts resort casinos would also take business away from the illegal bookies that operate today in Massachusetts.  It could be a financial blow to Massachusetts organized crime.

    Nevada allows gambling on both professional and amateur sports (e.g., NCAA events), but I think that we should exclude amateur sports wagering in Massachusetts.   A unique strength of Massachusetts is its colleges and universities.  All NCAA athletes are forbidden from betting on ANY collegiate sport and it would be wrong for us to tempt them. And, we do not want to risk missing out on future NCAA tournament events (e.g., Frozen Four, March Madness, ...) that now commonly come to Boston.

    Of course, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS will object.  But what can they do?  Massachusetts already has NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS franchises.  None would dare pull their franchises.  Sure the NFL would never schedule a Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium if we allowed gambling on NFL games in Massachusetts, but they were never going to anyway.  We might lose the few times the MLB, NBA and NHL all-star games are played in Boston, but (unlike NCAA events in Massachusetts) those are very rare events.  The tax revenue differential that an on-going professional sports book at Massachusetts resort casinos would garner is much, much greater than the occasional bump in tax revenue from all-star games.

    • This is a pretty well thought out idea.

      I don't like it because I'm opposed to legalizing any more gambling (and would, in fact, support reducing the state lottery).

      But, you thread the needle quite nicely.  You exclude NCAA, which is smart.  You acknowledge the impact on pro sports, and I think your expectation is right on (we won't lose any franchises, but won't get any all-star games).

      I wonder: how long would it take for a player on a pro sports team to start Pete Rose'n it?

      • Rose'n it

        Were Pete's bets with legal sports books?  I didn't think so.  It's not that hard to get a bet down now.  I don't think having legal sports books would make athletes more likely to bet on games (since it would still be against their league rules).  

        I agree that having a sports book would make a difference in competing with other casinos that don't have one although I don't think sports books would generate a lot of direct revenue if they are located only in casinos.  (It is very easy to place a bet on a game today, either online or over the phone.  It is very not easy to get in your car and drive to the casino to place your bet.) But indirectly they will probably bring more patrons into the casino.

        • That's the whole point.

          Were Pete's bets with legal sports books?  I didn't think so.  It's not that hard to get a bet down now.  I don't think having legal sports books would make athletes more likely to bet on games (since it would still be against their league rules).

          Indeed, they weren't, and American pros betting on sports has been rare for around 100 years.  That it's illegal makes the bar higher -- it makes it less likely that an athlete will bet on sports.  Legalizing it lowers the bar, and increases the ease.  Could a player dead-set on making a bet now do it?  Of course.  That's true of everything from riding a motorbike without a helmet to sniffing cocaine.  It's also true that in both cases, making those things illegal reduces the frequency.

          I do think that making it legal would increase the likelihood of both pro and NCAA athletes placing bets on their own sport.  I'm not arguing that the probability would go to 1.000, just arguing that it would be higher.

          • The Bradley Act,

            So named after Senator Bill Bradley (NJ), was passed by Congress in 1992. Officially known as the "Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act", it effectively prohibits any betting on sporting events where it was not permitted prior to 1991.

            That is why sports books exist in Las Vegas, but not in any other casino locale (such as Atlantic City). No chance of legalized sports betting here.

    • lol

      If only we had sports-book betting, people would come to visit us for our casinos from all over the world!!!@##1!

      It's an old argument. We just need to add X and all our problems will be solved!

      No thanks. Keep the casinos and slots out of Massachusetts. No matter what they had thrown in them, they won't solve a single, solitary problem in this state.

  3. My Rep. is voting $quot;no$quot;...

    ...but he told me last night that this bill will pass anyway.  "So what then", I asked.  He said we can only hope that the worst possible scenarios do not become reality.

    Frankly, that was pretty depressing.

    • it's not inevitable

      Even if it passes the house -- and I don't think that's the inevitability that DeLeo's trying to make it out to be -- there's still a lot of roadblocks. If the "compromise" DeLeo's pushed... to give race tracks free money... were ever to become widely known, there would be a fervent pushback. Legislators would certainly lose seats over such hackishness if they actually voted for it.  

    • It's great he's voting no, but he shouldn't resign himself to a loss

      Casinos were not inevitable the last time they said it, and they aren't now. The more opponents feel it is inevitable, the less they will do to stop it.

      They are likely, but they are not inevitable. The Speaker is using as much power as he has on this vote, but there are options. Especially if the vote is kept lower than a veto-proof majority.

      If you don't want legalized slots and casinos, please let your legislator know immediately. Now is the time to end the myth of 'inevitability' they have been pushing since 2007.

  4. Conspicuous by their absence...

    ...are several posts over the months from Les Bernal, whose handle is StopPredatoryGambling.

    • Thanks, updated with his Top Ten Predatory Practices post

      He has done some of the best work and research on this issue. The oversight is my fault, and unintentional

  5. I support allowing two resort casino into Massachusetts.

    The 750 slot machines are of no value to our state.  But, hey, some people like them, so go for it.  

    I don't believe that it is in the best interest of the Democratic party to be overly oppressive when it comes to the behavior of people.  Everyone is different and no-one is perfect.  Sky-diving, skiing, ice-fishing, heck, even frying a turkey in a fryer can be inherently dangerous.

    When people talk about "big government", they also talk about the way government creates laws that are in place only to protect people from themselves.  This has to stop. Here's hoping that forced self-protection doesn't become a new addition to the Democratic Platform.

    I want to jump in the back of a pick-up truck and go for a ride to the lake.  I can't do it anymore because of the seat belt law, which is a forced self-protection law.  You may save a few lives, but they are lives less freely lived.

    This has the same flavor as withholding corned beef from a 90 year old person because they have high cholesterol. Or better yet, withholding corned beef from all of us because some people have high cholesterol.

    Let just work to make sure that regulations are in place to protect people from fraud and manipulation.  I will join in that fight for what's right.

    • Come on

      It's not about being overly oppressive of people. People can go to Vegas or CT. It's not like we're stopping them.

      However, the detrimental EFFECTS for communities in the vicinity of a casino is not worth it for the paltry revenue we'll be getting. (Seriously, a couple hundred mill a year?? Whatev.)

      The fact is, that you will: a) kill many small businesses in the area, b) kill many stage venues around the area (those near the CT border already struggle to get acts, because they can't pay like the casinos do), c) increase the number of addicts in the area of a casino, d) increase the crime rate and blight in the area of a casino, e) likely put a big dent in the lottery sales, which are funds that go to local aid, and f) increase the costs to the state trying to mitigate these effects, which eats into the state's revenue stream from casinos - if you look at their silly optimistic outlook for casino revenue, realize it's somewhere south of that, and that the casino interests, once here, will spend ungodly amounts of cash to influence policy, including reducing the tax rate on them, you will realize that it is impractical to allow casinos to operate in our borders.

      • Financing

        Who do you think will finance the construction of these casinos. A few years back, it would have been banks or investors - but I'll bet you the state will have to step in. It will be Evergreen Solar all over.

        • I'm no fan of casinos

          but I'm pretty sure that they can't be offshored quite the same way a high-tech manufacturing plant can.

    • And by the way

      Those effects are not immediate, they are gradual and insidious, and not taken into account in these bills!

      Travel around the casino area of Atlantic city. It's full of blight.

      Travel around the casino area of Vegas, you will see rank poverty and blight in many parts of the city.

      But everything was rosy when they started! Now, those states and cities are stuck with the effects of casinos and expanded gambling and cannot ever be rid of them. They are held hostage by their addiction to the revenue stream, even reduced as it becomes in many instances.

      And then, the states in question are often asked to bail out failing slot parlors and casinos in a recession! We need to wake up and smell what we're about to step into.

    • I do respect the 'live free or die' sentiment, but...

      ...I think the bottom line is that this is an economic decision our state has to make, and opening ourselves to slots and casinos will create a drain on our economy.

      Every dollar of net profit the casino corporations make is a dollar that leaves the Massachusetts economy.

  6. What about Gladys Kravitz?

    Slots for Tots and Six Degrees of Suffolk Downs are priceless.

    The Gladys roll is here

  7. Sign the petition and spread the word.

    Yet another thread on casinos, this one with a petition to sign.

    The petition is up to 256 signatures.

    Here's my organization's alert on this craps:

    Really, regardless of your position on casinos and state-sponsored predatory gambling, the process here is an absolute travesty. They know it's bad policy that won't stand up to lots of daylight, so basically they're counting on our silence. Sign the petition, spread the word, and shine the light on this anti-democratic and ultimately destructive move.

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