If you happened to catch the interview this morning with Speaker Deleo on Ch.5, then you witness a question and answer session that was absolutely painful. It’s long been clear that the reasons for Mr. Speakah’s laser-like focus on bringing expanding gambling to Massachusetts were mostly parochial. But, giving the many years that he has been pushing for increased gambling, one would think he would have at least a minimally basic knowledge of general facts on the subject- if only for the cover of looking like he had actually given genuine consideration the broader picture at some point. Unfortunately, his performance during the “Pop Quiz” (it’s not really a pop quiz, it’s always a feature on this show) portion of ch5’s “On the Record” exposed that Mr. Deleo has failed to even take the minimal step of learning basic facts about the industry he is pushing so hard to bring to his state, or even the details of his own bill. It should be emphasized that the questions were not about arcane details of an unexpected topic like “What is the GDP of Kazakhstan?” or “What book did Mitt Romney promise South Korea he would help censor in Mass public schools?” These were basic questions about casino gambling, the number 1 topic on the State House agenda today (thanks to Deleo) and the subject of a proposed change in law that will bring the biggest cultural & economic change to the Commonwealth in a very very long time.
The complete video of the interview are on ch5’s website here and here, but seem to have no easy embedding option, anyone interested in what’s going on in the state should watch the complete interview. The “Pop Quiz” portion is on youtube, see for yourself here the level of knowledge, and attention to detail, that is driving this immense change:
Ugh…if non-answers, wrong answers, and unintelligible muttering were high rhetoric, the above performance by Deleo would be the new Gettysburg Address. Let’s review the questions, none of which the Speaker of the House was able to answer correctly:
What is a “Whale” in casino terminology?
What is the annual revenue of all casinos on the Las Vegas strip?
How many states have some form of legalized gambling?
What year was Suffolk Downs built?
In current Mass casino plan, what % of revenue goes to the state?
Not surprisingly, the closest Deleo came to a correct answer was on trivia of Suffolk Downs history. This one is by far the least meaningful to any discussion of the merits of the gambling industry, but the likeliest for Deleo to actually know because “saving” Suffolk Downs* by bringing in new kinds of gambling has been Deleo’s #1 priority for a long time. He was only off by seven years on the date Suffolk Downs was built, and when given the correct answer Deleo says something like “well seven years, that counts.” If casinos would be as generous with citizens as Deleo is with himself here, massively expanded gambling might actually be a good deal for the people. “Hey, you were only off by seven on the roulette wheel. Close enough, that counts, here’s the Jackpot!” or “You got 28 in blackjack. Only seven from 21, that counts!!”
Deleo’s laughing through this whole sorry performance may be the saddest part. This is not a joke, but the truth is that the decision making process at the State House right now is one. And the surrounding political/business/media culture is too. If they weren’t, a high official would have to make a least a decent charade of knowing what they are talking about when their parochial interests drive them to make changes to the state that will effect millions of people and billion of dollars, not to mention the culture for decades to come. And they certainly couldn’t admit, with a chuckle, that they are woefully ignorant about how the industry they are working so hard to enrich actually operates. This would be a pretty minimal hurdle. But, at this moment in time, it appears they don’t even have to bother with anything like that. In fact, one of our highest officials is so confident that he won’t be held accountable to even minimum basic standards that he’s willing to go on TV and actually laugh at his own shocking cluelessness regarding the issue he himself considers most important. That’s a pretty long fall for the Athens of America.
*Suffolk Downs will not be “saved” even if expanded gambling passes and they get one of the licenses. It will become a whole new thing, virtually unrecognizable from what it is now or once was. People who are supporting this because they think it will bring some kind of renaissance of long-gone glory days at the track are deluding themselves.