Casinos: A Worse Bet Than Ever

The floor of the Tropicana in Atlantic CityAs Massachusetts keeps pursuing casinos as a magic salve for neglected areas, officials keep ignoring that America’s casino explosion has made each new casino far less profitable. Take Pennsylvania:

Nine of the 11 Pennsylvania casinos posted slots revenue declines in July, leading to a 3.7 percent overall decrease. [...]

“Harrah’s Philadelphia’s decline was surprising, given the size of the decline and the large increase in promotional free play,” [gambling analyst John] Kempf said. The casino, one of four in the Philadelphia area, has declined in slots revenue 11 months in a row, he said, and 17 of the last 19 months.

Sure, casinos make crushingly poor & crime-ridden areas (like, say, Springfield or New Bedford) even more crushingly poor & crime-ridden. But there must be huge benefits, right? So what are the benefits in Pennsylvania?

  • The gambling industry pockets 86 percent of table revenue and more than half 45% [-ed.] of slots revenue.
  • Homeowners received an average tax cut of 55 cents per day. Keep in mind that’s average, so mansion owners are getting a lot more and 2-bedroom homeowners are getting much less.
  • The revenue has funded an increase in eligibility & small increase in benefit for a property tax & rent rebate program for seniors & the disabled.

If you don’t own a home & you’re not elderly, you are getting all the negatives and literally zero benefit to Pennsylvania having casinos.

Meanwhile here in Massachusetts, it’s being reported that gambling interests spent “only” $2 million in the first six months of 2013 on lobbying and getting a casino referendum passed in Springfield. Why, they’re practically giving up!


20 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Warning to Everett, Springfield, and Lawrence

    It didn’t work out here in the Midwest. The Joliet and Aurora casinos did not revive their downtowns, if anything they were the last nail in the coffin. And once the lure of cheap and easy deals wears off, they just attract the lifers, many of whom will just bounce from one to another without spending any time or money in local businesses. The entertainment options (luring a B list celeb as an act) dry up as soon as the initial gambling revenues wear off. In the worst case scenario, you are left with a huge footprint that is difficult to convert to another use.

  2. Repeal Casinos/Slots

    A ballot petition to repeal the special interest casino/slots law will be headed to the November 2014 election with a slew of other initiatives. Learn more about the Repeal here.

    What does it say about satisfaction with the Beacon Hill political process when the people have to legislate their own affairs to have a voice that is not muted, muffled or ignored by politicians? Specifically, the power of the positions of Governor, Speaker, Senate President and Mayor of Boston to silence opposition.

    Well, leadership is changing, the economy and alleged benefits of casinos has drastically declined and the impacts of siting them in Massachusetts has risen.

    Look for friendly signature gatherers Mid-September to Mid-November. Better yet, ye wizened and experienced junkies, sign-up to help get signatures. Let’s at least see what voters decide. I know many people who think 3 and slots at tracks are too many who would vote to repeal and be okay with one casino. Saturation models support dismal projections for additional casino build-out.

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    • I don't understand the libertarian position

      We are not talking about legalizing gambling. If you want to gamble there are already a plethora of options available to you here and elsewhere. I am not a Puritan against gambling, friends and family have gone to Vegas and love it, but Vegas has and knows how to mitigate the social costs. And it’s also learning the hard way that even it cannot rely on that revenue as a long term economic development strategy.

      This has nothing to do with personal freedom ad everything to do with a predatory industry feeding on desperate towns and desperate people and a strategy for economic development that has failed everywhere it has been tried as a long term and equitable public policy. You wanna play poker? The cops shouldn’t bust your game in the parlor. You wanna play slots? Go to Foxwoods, Atlantic City or Vegas. Refusing to accept the social costs and burdens in Massachusetts doesn’t make me anti-freedom, it makes me prudent.

      I am against monorails to Odgenville too.

      • It's schizophrenic.

        The same people that complain bitterly about EBT cards support casinos which are going to result in people blowing their income and relying on welfare. I was at a bar Friday night listening in on a group of people at the other end talking about how the state really needs $50 scratch tickets. None of these people looked like that’s something they should be blowing money on. Boggles the mind. Legalized gambling is a race to the bottom. Not saying it should all go away, but clearly there is are differences between a few low cost scratch tickets and the monuments to irrational economic activity that are casinos.

      • Hard time with the Libertarian Position on Casinos.

        Breaks my philosophy.

        But the one thing to be said is Casinos are a public/private partnership – maybe completely legalizing gambling would do away with some of the localized negative effects.

        As someone who travels a far amount on business to cities with Casinos – I would tell you they have all failed to bring the promised economic benefits to their local areas. I would never raise a family in Vegas – it’s sleazy everywhere. Reno – (which is a great little college town – which you would never expect) – is a pleasant place to live except when you get close to the Casinos.

        Also local indigenous business get driven out because of the high wages the Casinos offer. It sucks the air out of the surrounding economy – it’s gambling – or nothing else. No chance for any other industries to grow.

        And then of course the corruption of state and local officials – which would never happen in Massachusetts :)

  3. Why don't we do this, instead of building casinos

    Go to CT which has Foxwoods, and enter into a 20 year contract that MA will not build any casinos, in exchange, MA gets $XYZ amount of money. If we renege, we pay all the money back, plus triple damages.

  4. Jim Braude made this exact suggestion last week.

    I believe he even made the point that it was someone else’s idea, but he could not remember who, off the top of his head.

    There is a word for this. See the tirade by Doug Bennett against Joan Vennochi here Doug Bennett upset with Joan Vennochi for that word.

    • Mike- r u responding to me, if so

      Romney tried to get CT to pay MA for not builing casinos, but not sure how much he could influence CT when there was no interest or bill authorizing casino construction. Now that it’s on the verge, we have some leverage, one would think.

  5. Socialized Casinos - Dealing with CT casinos

    In addition to the proposals made many times that have been around the outskirts of the predatory gambling debate to strike a deal with CT, is the proposal for truly socialized government managed casinos. The current business model has government partnering with a predatory business that fleeces the people……with some token tax/licensing fees that do not cover costs, impacts, mitigation and economic drain/shift from regional economies to the casino owner/developer pockets. It is a losing business model for government (except campaign donations and power plays) but mostly for the financial backers of government and communities….taxpayers.

    100% unionized.
    100% smoke free – like all government facilities per public health laws.
    100% regulated – treatment on demand; loss limits tracked through secure system with financial and compulsive gambling services triggered at certain thresholds.

    Alcohol, food, hotel rooms cannot undermine non-casino competitors with any unfair business practices.

    One of the tricky parts about dealing with CT casinos would have been this: if Governor Patrick had inked a deal in let’s say, 2008, instead of opening the floodgates for MA becoming another casino culture Commonwealth… would be crazy to see how CT would get their nutmegs out of the downward spiral of revenue losses.

    • CT has no casinos.

      CT has indian tribal lands, which are not run by anybody in the government of CT. These are federally recognized sovereign territories.

      I suppose Massachusetts could strike deals with the Mashantucket and Mohegan Tribes. But then they’d have to sit on the Wampanoags here to enforce it…. which they, legally, cannot do.

      • The State of CT gets no revenue from these casinos?

        None at all?

      • The Government Has A VESTED Interest

        In predatory gambling. Both in CT and MA.

        Note the CT lottery revenues exceeded what the two biggest casinos in the US generated in 2012.

        That is the problem.

        It has been a myth that MA needed to accommodate the two federally recognized tribes to allow casinos. No land-into-trust; Carcieri ruling and Governor could have just said no to regressive taxation, poor public health and fiscal policy that does not generate wealth but rather burdens the middle class (who pay the hidden costs of infrastructure, air quality, property values decline, schools, roads, law enforcement, courts systems, corrections, etc.)

  6. Elmore Leonard put it best

    From one of his best books, Gltiz,

    “Two thousand a day came into the city, dropped the suckers off for six hours to lose their paychecks, their Social Security in the slots and haul them back up to Elizabeth, Newark, Jersey City, Philly, Allentown,” Mr. Leonard writes. “Bring some more loads back tomorrow — like the Jews in the boxcars, only they kept these folks alive with bright lights and loud music and jackpot payoffs that sounded like fire alarms.”

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Tue 28 Mar 7:37 PM