Why I won’t support Steve Grossman for governor: The Lottery

Is gambling/lottery/casinos going to be one of the few issues that clearly distinguishes the Democratic candidates? If so, can Berwick - the only clearly anti-gambling candidate - take advantage? - promoted by david

I was recently contacted by the Grossman campaign, asking for my support for Steve’s bid for the corner office. I wrote back, telling Steve that, while I admire some of his successes as Treasurer, his handling of the Lottery — specifically, the Lottery’s shameless promotions without any regard for the issue of addiction — was upsetting and disappointing to me. I told him that I found the holiday campaign to buy Lottery tickets “for everyone on your list” particularly irresponsible. Instead, I will be voting for Don Berwick for, among other things, his stand against casinos and his support for a single-payer healthcare system.

Here is his answer:

Dear Mary-Ann,

Thanks for your heartfelt comments. As you probably know, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth is responsible for running the state lottery that was created more than 40 years ago. The profits the lottery generates are the single most important source of unrestricted local aid for all 351 cities and towns. The money goes for firefighters, police officers, senior centers, repairing roads and a variety of other important local priorities that improve the quality of life of all citizens. We spend a lot of time and money working to support those who are afflicted with gambling addiction. I am deeply concerned about excessive gambling in Massachusetts and will continue to do everything I can to put in place policies that will educate all citizens and help those who are gambling addicted. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

Steve Grossman

And here is my reply, in open-letter form:

Dear Treasurer Grossman,

I was going to leave my correspondence with you at your response to me. Then, as I was reading the Boston Globe online this morning, I was confronted with yet another flashy pop-up ad for the Lottery — again, with absolutely NO mention of addiction or where to go to get help with same. Instead, the utterly misleading advertisement spoke of percentages of “payouts,” but had NO warnings about playing responsibly or where to go to get help for gambling addiction. It’s a trap. And a well-baited one, at that.

You see, the subject of gambling and gambling addiction is much on my mind; I am a longtime resident of Plainville, where our Host Community consultant has projected a 44% increase in gambling addiction within 10 miles of Plainridge should Penn National be granted the casino license there. (http://www.plainville.ma.us/Pages/PlainvilleMA_EmerNews/S03C0E1F7-043140B1.1/Impacts%20on%20Citizens%20Report.pdf)  I have educated myself about expanded gambling and have been a vocal opponent of predatory gambling in my town and in the commonwealth. As a lifelong Democrat who has been quite active in the Party, and as someone who supported and volunteered on your campaigns in the past, I had hoped for a response from you that was more than political pablum.

I stand by my original assertion that you — in your capacity as state treasurer — were irresponsible in flogging Lottery tickets as holiday gifts for “everyone on your list.” The advertisements did not include even a mention about using caution when giving a “gift” of Lottery tickets. Your assertion that you are ”deeply concerned about excessive gambling in Massachusetts” rings quite hollow after viewing and hearing those atrocious ads.  (http://voicebunny.s3.amazonaws.com/rec/9b75d2_Pandora_Massachusetts%20State%20Lottery%20Commission_Jira-30993(VB2DCTJIG)_Spot2-1.mp3) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IEluyJ27FA)

You write that, “…the Treasurer of the Commonwealth is responsible for running the state lottery that was created more than 40 years ago.” Longevity and tenacity of a government policy doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthy or should continue. Just a few examples of bad government policies that hurt people and yet continued for many, many years: slavery, depriving women of the vote, “separate but equal” racial segregation, and government doctors experimenting on children, the mentally ill, poor patients, racial minorities, and prisoners. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment — the infamous clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African American (men who thought they were receiving free health care from the government) — went on for 40 years, as well. There were many, many people who thought those policies were a good idea, and who worked tenaciously to keep them in place. One frequently used argument was that a small number of people would suffer, but the results would benefit the public-at-large. Looking at those public policies now, who among us wouldn’t have stopped those atrocities if we’d had the chance?  Even if we could save only one orphan, prisoner, or mentally ill patient from the horrors they experienced, even if we freed only one enslaved African — wouldn’t we put our very bodies between the perpetrators and the vulnerable? The fact that the Lottery has been in place for 40 years does not mean it’s good policy; it only means that there have been enough people in power to make sure it continues. Just like the policies listed above. Hardly something to be proud of.

As you know (or ought to), the money allotted to treat gamblers who are addicted to the Lottery, Keno, horse racing, and other forms of gambling is already not enough. Worse news, the amount the new casinos will eventually be required to pay each year toward problem gambling treatment has dropped by more than $20 million since Governor Patrick first rolled out his plans for casinos in 2007. Massachusetts legislators axed $560,000 from this fiscal year’s budget for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, which, in turn, has put a big dent in the Council’s plans to prepare for the four casinos in the commonwealth. (http://www.telegram.com/article/20130324/NEWS/103249834/0)

Even if the amount of money for treatment and prevention approached the amount necessary to treat every citizen who needs treatment, none of the monies set aside can or will be applied to the actual costs of the damage done by people struggling with gambling addiction: bankruptcies, child neglect, divorce, job loss, foreclosures,
evictions, embezzlement, theft, arrests, homelessness … There are no sums set aside to feed or house families when a mother or father spends the grocery or rent money on gambling, or when an elder uses her savings or her limited income to buy Lottery tickets or to indulge in the “crack cocaine of gambling.” There is no money set aside to replace money lost in businesses when addicted employees resort to petty theft, when the addicted CEO loses the payroll, or to pay hospital bills resulting from domestic violence. There are no funds dedicated to help when a family member, addicted to gambling and drowning in debt, commits suicide. Yes, these things happen to a minority of our citizens. But it’s happening at our hands. How can we condone sacrificing a few for the enjoyment and enrichment of the many?

As for your claim that you will ”… do everything I can to put in place policies that will educate all citizens and help those who are gambling addicted,” I must ask: Why aren’t signs posted at every Lottery and Keno agent stating the actual chances of winning? Why doesn’t the state post signs that say there is no way to increase your chances of winning because Lottery and Keno are strictly games of chance? Why aren’t there signs telling people how to calculate what they’ve actually won:  $WON – $$SPENT usually = $$$LOSSES. Signs with information to get help for gambling addiction should be at every single Lottery agent and Keno location and should be as big, colorful, and eye-catching as the signs to get people to buy “chances” on the Lottery. Why is the only mention of problem gambling on the Massachusetts Lottery website one tiny link at the very, very bottom of the page, at the very end of the line, which reads “Compulsive Gambling Help”?  Why aren’t Lottery and Keno agents forced to cut people off after a certain amount of money is spent, the way bartenders are forced to cut drinkers off if they’ve had too much? Why don’t we have a self-exclusion list for the Lottery? Why? Why? Why? Because Massachusetts is addicted to gambling, to the billions of dollars it bilks from people who can’t afford to lose, who can’t keep themselves from gambling, or both. Somehow, your policies seem to fall woefully short of what is truly needed to “…educate all citizens and help those who are gambling addicted.”

To add insult to injury, problematic gambling is more common among people with alcohol use disorders compared with those without AUDs. This holds true for people in the general population and is even more pronounced among people receiving treatment. And yet, the commonwealth allows Lottery tickets to be sold and Keno to be played in places where alcohol is served, often with Lottery machines or Keno screens right in the bar. Worse yet, the state is poised to allow casinos to serve free and cheap drinks for 18-of-24 hours each day, 365 days a year — something NOT allowed in bars or restaurants. The link between alcohol disorders and gambling addiction has been studied and written about by scholars and health care providers around the world. Too bad it falls on deaf ears in the legislature and at the Lottery Commission. (http://www.ncrg.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/monographs/ncrgmonograph8_fnl.pdf)

Finally, it’s really the classism of legalized predatory gambling that’s central to the “success” of the Lottery, isn’t it? I am certain that a map of Lottery sales in Massachusetts would show that significantly more tickets are sold in poorer towns and neighborhoods than where, say, you live in Newton. (http://www.businessinsider.com/lottery-is-a-tax-on-the-poor-2012-4?op=1) Lotteries are a tax on the poor. Period. Meanwhile, Governor Patrick, Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Murray, and gambling commission Chair Crosby all say that they want expanded gambling in Massachusetts, as long as the casinos aren’t in their towns. In fact, the towns that have said yes to casino gambling are the poorer towns who feel they have no options, while the tonier towns (with the wherewithal to fund opposition campaigns) have said no. Just as the military is filled with young men and women from underserved, economically depressed areas who are usually the first to be sent to war, Massachusetts is allowing financially strapped towns and their residents to bear the burden of the Lottery and casinos, all to fill the state coffers while causing the least amount of pain and inconvenience to our more wealthy and powerful citizens.

And now the Massachusetts Lottery is standing on the brink of developing the Lottery for the internet! As your Online Products Task Force stated in its Final Report, December 13, 2012 ”The status quo is not a choice. If the Lottery does not enter this online market, other entrants – including commercial casinos, tribal casinos, commercial gaming companies and other states – will. And given the high per capita spending now and the fact that personal incomes are growing modestly at best, the inevitable consequence would be that those new entrants would cannibalize Lottery sales, putting at risk local aid.”

Government sponsored predatory gambling has failed to expand the middle class and has driven citizens deeper into America’s debt culture instead. Predatory gambling has created a Lottery Class in America. While most of us save and invest money in retirement accounts and 529 college funds for our kids, government is turning hundreds of thousands of people who are small earners with the potential to be small savers into a new class of habitual bettors – the Lottery Class. They represent the 1 out of 5 Americans who, according to the Consumer Federation of America, think the best way to achieve long-term financial security is to play the lottery. (http://stoppredatorygambling.org/facts-research/failed-government-policy/#sthash.UHg50JLC.dpuf) And now you and your Task Force are planning to use the internet to pick the pockets of more residents and turn them into debtors, all for the “common good.” Where does it end?

You write that, ”We spend a lot of time and money working to support those who are afflicted with gambling addiction.” Well, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is responsible for a public policy that creates, enables, and promotes gambling addiction. The meager steps it takes to “support those who are afflicted with gambling addiction,” even while allowing more and more ways and opportunities to addict people, is little better than providing bandaids for the syphillis sores on men infected at Tuskegee, even as more and more were intentionally sickened by the State.

If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can’t support itself without exploiting and harming the most vulnerable of its citizens, is it really a “commonwealth” at all?

Mary-Ann Greanier


58 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I love this diary b/c it tells the truth about The Lottery

    It is the most regressive, predatory tax on the poor, and this diary, with its links, proves it. I won’t blame Grossman, since no candidate is proposing to scrap it, but I would support anyone who does.

    “If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can’t support itself without exploiting and harming the most vulnerable of its citizens, is it really a “commonwealth” at all?” Amen Mary-Ann, amen to that.

    • Elimination of lottery

      I’m curious, would you support a candidate that proposed eliminating the lottery and replacing its revenue with an income tax increase?

      • Nopolitician- absolutely

        Whats the net profit of the MA lottery, a billion? So 10000% yes, evicorate the lottery and replace the revenue with a tax, if need be.

        Now, I would first want to cut the lard out of government, can we do this first, starting with pensions and h/c retiree bennies for politicians. Second, MA has over 140,000 people with liquid assets over $1 million. I bet most are good Democrats, so put a special property tax of 1% on any stocks and bonds over $100,000 in value. Then look to any univ with over a billion in its endowment fund. After you do all this, tell me what the shortfall is, and put it on the income tax.

        We have a deal, Nopolitician? Like the compromise?

        • Nice hedge

          OK, I’ll play your game.

          I absolutely support your compromise. Now first, I would like to institute a graduated income tax, which I would then use to dramatically increase state aid to cities and towns so that people, particularly seniors, aren’t going to be bled dry by any “wealth” tax that you want to implement. I’d also like to institute a guaranteed income program for the state’s citizens so that anyone who wants a job can get one.

          So yes, with those conditions, let’s make that deal! See how close we are to consensus?

      • does it have to be either extremes?

        Does it have to be either selling the lottery as some kind of savior of public education that we must advertise heavily and employ sleezy tactics to maximize revenue ($20 tickets, etc.), using the same kinds of manipulative techniques that shady companies would to get people to buy a bad product?

        I don’t blame this situation on Grossman at all. The state puts tons of pressure on the lottery to ‘perform,’ while paying little to no attention to the 2-5% of the population who are problem gamblers and buy a hugely disproportionate amount of the tickets.

        If Grossman intentionally implemented policies to mitigate the damage to problem gamblers that hurt net lottery revenue by 5-10% — without some legitimate planning and talk between Grossman and the legislature to offset that revenue — cities and politicians would scream, because most of them, like most people in general, don’t see the results of problem gamblers and therefore don’t give a damn. That’s just how our brains work — out of sight, out of mind.

        But the state could implement policies that would legitimately mitigate the damage that’s possible for our state to do to problem gamblers in the right way, that wouldn’t hurt local revenue in aggregate. That way, the revenue the state lottery does bring in (which would still be substantial) would be revenue derived from people spending pocket change on the otherwise harmless fun most people think it is — and was a key point in institution a state lottery to begin with.

        That latter part got away from us, as a Commonwealth. Not Grossman as a person or any other candidate who wouldn’t want to run on cutting state lottery revenues.

        • Thanks Rye

          I felt the OP was quite harsh on Grossman and took this issue personally. Granted, there may be problem gamblers in that person’s life-but alcoholism is a problem should the state stop selling it and taxing it? Cigarettes cause cancer, should we ban their sale and stop taxing those? And to argue this helps Berwick is disingenuous since while he is against casinos the lottery is not going anywhere-nor has he proposed that it should.

          My opposition to casino gambling stems from two evidence based conclusions.

          The first, that they never deliver on the promised revenues and actually increase negative externalities and coat of governance in the areas where they are placed. They cause higher crime, hurt local businesses and the local economy, create too few good jobs, and also significantly increase gambling rates for the areas around them. They fail as economic development or urban redevelopment engines and the incentives to lure them em rarely end up getting repaid. U of C studies shown this to be true for Joliet and Aurora IL-not to mention Gary IN. Also for Foxwoods more locally. I have some friends in CT trying to revoke the gaming charters that’s his much damage it has done. Atlantic City and Las Vegas are on their way to becoming Detroits-one industry boom towns that become ghost towns once that industry goes belly up . Economically- a bad bet.

          The second is the personal toll. I can’t tell you how many times in my old line of work (bankruptcy law) I had clients lose their entire pensions and life savings-even jobs and marriages-due to casino gambling addictions . You can’t go broke on the MA lottery-you can go broke over the course of an evening at any casino.

          To equate the two is to discredit the reason based opposition to casino gambling by taking a Carrie Nation approach to any kind of gambling.
          Reforms like limiting the number of tickets an individual can purchase or the kinds of games they can play it capping might help mitigate for the heavy users. Otherwise-this is badly needed revenue that won’t come back. Lotteries are some of the few forms of voluntary taxation that are electorally popular. Progressives shouldn’t take a puritanical approach to it and starve an already fanished government of needed revenue.

        • There’s an unwillingness as a society to deal with the true cost of government. That’s what’s going on here, in Massachusetts, with gambling and the lottery; with fees, tolls, and other governmental charges; and, even increased property taxes (as a result of cuts to local aid to cities and towns). People think (and perhaps it’s true) that there’s a general unwillingness to pay higher taxes, or, in Massachusetts, implement a more progressive state income tax. So, in order to generate revenue, we steer clear of “income taxes” and focus on all other means to generate revenue. But, what does this really accomplish, at the end of the day other than making people feel better because taxes don’t go up? What is each one of us really saving at the end of the day, if income taxes don’t go up but tolls increase, fees go up, property taxes increase, and the state needs to care for a bunch of lottery and gambling addicts? I would rather have a debate that recognizes the true cost of government, institute a progressive state income tax, and get rid of all other “crutches” that we use to fund government because we’re afraid to have an honest debate about what it really costs……..

  2. Ouch!

    I sense quite a bit of anger in your letter! The lottery for the vast majority of players is a harmless small-money diversion, the proceeds of which go to cities and towns. I’m pretty sure it’s not nearly the addiction that casino style gambling can be, and as Treasurer he would almost be negligent to NOT promote it. Meanwhile, if your beef is with policies surrounding the lottery take it up with the legislature; the Treasurer is the administrator, but not the policy-maker.

    • But wait, Dan thinks

      the Lottery is regressive and predatory. He’s always right.

      • I'd like to see some numbers

        Although it isn’t possible to know exactly how much people from each community spend on the lottery, it would be interesting to see a breakdown of the lottery sales by community.

        Some might argue that this would skew towards urban areas because rural areas don’t have as many outlets, but on the other hand, lottery sales are usually at gas stations and convenience stores, and people usually tend more than not to shop closer to home. I think it would correlate better than general sales tax revenue (which tends to be clustered in towns with shopping malls)

        I would then like to see the lottery payouts by community. Compare and contrast.

        I think this would at least provide a good discussion point to show that although some communities get a lot of local aid, they also contribute a lot to the lottery fund.

        Then, once that is done, I’d like to see a similar breakdown on CPA funds. CPA funds are also regressive in that they are a fixed dollar charge on property deed transfers. Why regressive? Because poorer urban areas don’t adopt the CPA, but I suspect they are the communities providing the bulk of the funding. End result: transfer money from poor communities to rich communities.

        • I believe that Lottery geographic distribution

          data is available. I will search and circle back if I find it. The distribution per community is published.

          More disturbing for me is Grossman’s ties with the Alcohol industry and the hot-potato-toss to him by DeLeo and the House of Lemmings to study reinstatment of Happy Hours (DUI fatality increases) to “level the playing field” for restaurants and bars that will have to compete with the government and taxpayer subsidized casino industry.

          • Distribution, yes, but sourcing, no

            Yes, I have seen the distribution of lottery aid data. It’s pretty meaningless without knowing where the lottery money is coming from.

            As an example, Springfield got $32 million in 2011, which amounts to 3.61% of the money distributed. Springfield has 2.39% of the state’s population, so on its face it would appear as though the distribution was progressive – Springfield got about 50% more of the distribution than it would have if the distribution was based on population numbers alone.

            However, there are two major things to consider:

            1) The state collected way more than the $888 million that it distributed. How much was actually left over after winnings were paid, and where was the difference between that and the $888 million spent?

            2) The overall receipts (including the monies paid out in prizes) had to be far, far more than $888 million. How much was wagered overall? What was the distribution of the payouts to winners and where did it go? Do different types of games have different odds? Is the geographical distribution of prizes truly random?

            3) The biggest question is, where did the amount wagered come from? If Springfield got 3.61% of the distribution but 4% of the amount wagered came from Springfield, then the lottery is regressive, not progressive. And if Springfield residents got less than 2.4% of the winnings, then Springfield loses overall because money is being taken out of its local economy and spent given to other local economies in the form of jackpots.

    • Christopher- you think lottery sales in MA are different than the other states?

      That in MA, the poor and low income don’t disproportionately play the lottery, it’s all even-steven here in MA? I think not.

      Being the administrator, if Grossman has access to data that supports what Mary-Ann says, is it his duty to inform the Governor and Legislature of the negative impacts, and have warning labels, like they do for cigarettes, about its addiction and only play time-to-time, not every Friday when you get paid?

      Any politician who pushes the lottery, knowing how it adversely impacts the poor, are no better than the cigarette companies who sat on health studies that verified the dangers of smoking and still continued to sell cigarettes, to keep the money flowing in. It’s the same thing here, Christopher.

      Grossman, at the very least, should have blown the whistle. Perhaps he did in private and was told to be quiet, but I doubt it.

      • I don't know how we compare to other states...

        …and I don’t know who plays here. I just know that nobody is forced to buy a ticket. Given that I’m pretty low income myself I very rarely play because I know I shouldn’t waste money that way.

        • Go into a convenience store

          between 6 and 7:30 AM and you can see a whole mess of people buying lottery tickets. At that time, the people are blue-collar. They also buy a lot of cigarettes.

          Back in the day, I used to work BINGO at my church. Those people were what another country would refer to as “working class.”

          Our resident stopped clock is right on this one.

          • between 6 and 7:30 AM and you can see a whole mess of people buying lottery tickets. At that time, the people are blue-collar. They also buy a lot of cigarettes.

            I worked at a few 24 hour convenience stores in the late ’80s/early ’90s. It was always the same people, most of whom lived in walking distance (no car) who made a regular, daily, visit to play their numbers, get their scratch tickets… and, if they won anything, walked right back to spend the winnings on more lottery. The flip side was that I never sold lottery to anybody who drove in. It was all neighborhood walk-ins. The stores I worked in were in North Scituate, Marshfield and Cohasset so not particularly downtrodden areas, and we’d have plenty of tony cars (cadillacs, beemers, etc) stop in for milk, snack, whatever on their way home (this were Tedeschis that didn’t have any gas pumps) without ever once so much as glancing at the lottery.

            That was in also the day when you had two, maybe three choices, in scratch tickets. I was gassing up the car the other day and got stuck waiting to pay behind a guy buying scratch tickets who couldn’t make up his mind which tickets, out of the some 30 odd choices, he wanted to scratch.

            • Petr- exactly what I see at my gas station in Waltham

              People without a car, clogging the line, pointing to the hanging scratch tickets, while the rest wait to pay the cashier cash for the gas, and swipe my rewards card to get 3 cents off a gallon. Or if they do have a car, it isn’t at the pumps, its parked near the door and it looks like what I call a “crap-can”, wondering how it ever passed inspection.

    • "Harmless small-money diversion"?

      I’m pretty sure you’re expressing your personal opinion — uninformed by facts or actual experience.

      The “vast majority of players” for the lottery are low-income men and women who spend a far greater share of their limited resources than their middle-class counterparts. Whatever the emotional content, here is what DFW wrote:

      [The lottery] is the most regressive, predatory tax on the poor.

      Like it or not, angry or not, that statement is simply true.

      Mr. Grossman is running for Governor, not treasurer. Whatever past role he has played in the lottery, he can and should join Don Berwick in opposing the Lottery — and casinos — now.

      It is immoral that we seduce the most desperate among us in order to make payments to far more prosperous communities.

      • Each transaction is small money, right?

        How much does it cost to play one set of numbers, or buy one scratch ticket? I can’t help it if people put down a lot on several sets of numbers or tickets – that is their choice. Thus it is not a tax, which usually implies compulsory, and I have always found that the weakest argument. Your second paragraph may well be true, but that decision is made by the consumers themselves.

        • "Thus it is not a tax"?

          Is your argument that the small size of each transaction keeps the lottery from being a “tax”? (Which, btw, is crazy, and would mean that the sales tax on a pack of gum is not a tax.) Or is it that, because the lottery is not compulsory, it is not a tax? (Which is equally crazy, because then the cigarette tax wouldn’t be a tax, since purchasing cigarettes isn’t compulsory.)

          But whether we call funds raised from the lottery a tax, a fee, the state’s “cut” or a foober-de-goobit, it doesn’t change that they are a regressive revenue stream based on the fact that the lottery raises a disproportionate amount of its total take from the state’s lower income quintiles.

          • It's the lack of requirement that makes it not a tax.

            A tax on cigarettes is just as much a tax as any other sales tax, because it adds to the regular price. However, you can’t call an entire purchase a tax because you don’t have to buy the tickets at all, but I do sometimes use that argument when people whine about cigarette taxes. I’m not doubting the idea that purchasers are disproportionately lower income; I guess I’m just saying I don’t care because nobody is forcing them.

            • the state in effect has a "sales tax" on the state lottery,

              the state’s cut, and that “sales tax” is massive, more than half the cost of the ticket.

              So, yes, for all intents and purposes, it’s a type of tax.

              • Right...

                …but what I’m saying is that the purchase itself should not be considered a tax any more than the purchase of anything else to which the sales tax is applied is considered a tax.

      • To add some data to Tom's assertions ...

        Check out this article from Business Insider, which excerpts from studies showing, among other things, that per capita lottery sales are highest in states’ poorest communities, that state lottery sales increase with increased state unemployment rates and that 20% of people calling the national 1-800-GAMBLER hotline were having problems controlling spending on state lottery tickets.

        It’s not a harmless small-money diversion for a great many people. Which is not to say that I advocate that we do away with the lottery entirely. But like many others here, I find its continued expansion and the state’s aggressive marketing of it to be a real problem.

  3. Casinos are the larger issue

    I don’t want to downplay the lottery, but I can certainly support Steve. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have the lottery; it’s not like a treasurer elected in 2010 was suddenly going to undo it. Had he tried, he would have failed, and made many enemies in the process.

    But the way the next governor handles casinos is an important question that every candidate should answer.

  4. Casino- Lottery and Steve Grossman's math skills

    Why would anyone in their right mind who made this statement:

    “The money goes for firefighters, police officers, senior centers, repairing roads and a variety of other important local priorities that improve the quality of life of all citizens. We spend a lot of time and money working to support those who are afflicted with gambling addiction.”


    support casinos that have a direct negative hit on Lottery sales (aka regressive tax revenue) and therefore local aid??? It is illogical.

    Furthermore it is leap away from sound thinking when one analyzes the formula for the Lottery that siphons about 23% of “gross revenues” back to the cities and towns in the form of local aid while casinos have been found to be blessed with a pittance <3% of ROS (Return on Suffering.)


  5. To the larger question ...

    Of casinos and the election, it seems pretty clear that Mr. Crosby et al are determined to get some licenses issued on the quick-like. My cynical mind guesses that this is to 1. Show some progress on one of the governor’s signature initiatives before he rides into the sunset and 2. Run interference against the potential repeal of the legislation waiting in the ballot-initiative wings.
    The timing of all this seems to me to put our AG in the spotlight: Regardless of political stances, shouldn’t she at least be raising the question of whether it’s wise to slow our roll toward casino-land a little bit while this pesky direct-democracy stuff works itself out?

  6. We needn’t eliminate the lottery tomorrow, but there are some changes Grossman could have implemented over the past four years, and didn’t. These include:

    * Eliminate Keno at places where it is legal to consume alcohol. Mixing booze and gambling is a definite exacerbation of both addictions, and there’s just no excuse for it.
    * Bring back the “turn in a non-winning scratchoff for a chance to win a sweepstakes” program. It cut down on litter, which is important in its own right and helps reduce the exposure of gambling to kids, who see the flashy lotto tickets on the ground.
    * We don’t need 30 scratchoff games. Reduce the number a bit. It’s just excessive.
    * $20 scratchoff tickets? That’s not harmless. That’s a problem. No scratchoff ticket should cost more than minimum wage methinks.
    * We don’t need to mix sports teams and lottery. The Bruins, Pats, Sox, and other lottery scratchoff games are no good. They’re overly attractive to kids, and they link sports and gambling, itself a major problem in this country.
    * Grossman moved the Commonwealth’s money to Mass banks. A great move. Why not the lottery? Why doesn’t the lottery only hire Massachusetts-based advertising firms? Manufacturing firms? Why doesn’t the lottery only advertise with organizations based in Massachusetts (think: Boston College program and not ClearChannel billboard)? Lottery revenue goes to three places: payouts, cities and towns, and overhead. Why not make sure the overhead at least helps stimulate the local economy?
    * How about a scratchoff where winners get solar panels on their roof? Where you win an electric car? MBTA monthly pass for life? Where you and the local charity of your choice win matching payouts?

    I’d like to see the lottery phased out, but it’s not realistic in a short time frame. At the very least, we could tweak it to minimize the most damaging aspects of it, and maximize the benefits which come of it. Grossman had four years to do it, and there’s no evidence I’ve seen that he made any efforts to do that. I think that’s a real shame.

    • Stomv for Treasurer!

      Fantastic ideas, stomv.

    • Plus .5

      I will partially update this since those reforms are all great ideas. I think blaming Grossman-as you and the OP are-when none of his opponents are going to change the lottery either is disingenuous. As is assuming he could waive a magic wand and make those reforms happen overnight. Bars would fit the loss of the keno license. If they and packers could kill a referendum to let grocery stores sell booze I am sure they are organized enough to twist a few arms in the Lege. Many of these reforms would likely require legislation. Definitely worth asking Grossman about and seeing if he could push them as governor.

      • He's been treasurer for 3+ years

        some of those could be done by him directly, others not. Still, did he even try for any of them? Did he push? Did he lobby? Any of them?

        None of his opponents had the constitutional office which oversees the lottery, so none of his opponents are really relevant to the discussion.

  7. The lottery, of all things?

    “Government sponsored predatory gambling has failed to expand the middle class and has driven citizens deeper into America’s debt culture instead. Predatory gambling has created a Lottery Class in America. ”

    There is a debt culture all right in America, but it’s got a lot to do instead with rampant consumerism and ease of credit. I think this ‘open letter’ blurs too many lines to be taken too seriously, and it’s just a thinly veiled attack on Grossman, on a topic on which none of the candidates differ.

  8. Grossman has done more than just run the lottery . . .

    During his campaign for Treasurer he advocated increasing the advertising budget for the lottery.
    In 2012 he advocated allowing the use of debit cards to play the lottery.
    The comparison of the lottery with tobacco sales is an apt one. We may not want to ban either one completely, but we don’t have to use TV advertising to push addictive and destructive behavior.
    We’ve outlawed TV ads for cigarettes since the 1960′s. Steve Grossman, on the other hand wants more advertising to push for more lottery sales.
    That’s my problem with Steve Grossman– he has the soul of a tobacco company executive.

    • Except...

      …the state is in the lottery business, not the cigarette business. Of course the Treasurer wants to promote the lottery; it’s practically in his job description. Plus the lottery gives neither the player nor the non-player sitting next to him life-threatening cancer.

      • It simply destroys himself and his family

        You demonstrate NO awareness of the reality of gambling addiction (which the lottery exacerbates), nor of the way that economic desperation strongly encourages the poor to grasp at any straw.

        Yes, the state IS in the lottery business. That’s immoral and wrong. That’s the reason that, for generations, ALL such numbers-games were illegal. That’s why addictive drugs are illegal.

        The fact that our state has chosen to join organized crime and the tobacco industry in preying on susceptible victims in no way eliminates the very real harm that the lottery does to its victims.

        I get that you “don’t care” about this very real problem. I have a hard time reconciling that apparent callousness with the compassion that your self-professed religious beliefs would imply.

        • I can have compassion for those with serious problems...

          …but on something like this I don’t want to base policy on the minority. Honestly while I understand there is such a thing as problem gambling I have never been completely comfortable with using substance abuse as an exact analogy. The vast majority of people are in control of their actions and some of us with no money to burn actually do know better.

          • In other words ...

            “I’ve already made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

          • Is alcoholism not a problem because only a minority of drinkers suffer from it? Is tobacco use not a problem because only a minority of smokers actually die from it? Is food safety not a problem because the “vast majority” of people who consume substandard food suffer no consequences? By your “logic” of “choice”, we should be perfectly ok knowing that all too many elderly poor subsist by eating canned cat food. They, after all, “choose” it — the government doesn’t “force” them to pick cat food over tuna. What level of completely unnecessary destruction of homes, families, and communities would get the attention of you who “actually do know better”?

            It sounds to me as though you are again essentially claiming that your personal and anecdotal experience trumps a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

            • Well...

              …alcohol and tobacco are legal and regulated and I say the same is fine for the lottery. The “choice” of food analogy doesn’t work because people need to eat, but they don’t need to play the lottery. The need to eat is also why our food should be safe. If you are arguing we need policies that will give people opportunity without resorting to the false hope of winning big on a ticket I’m right there with you. What I am pointing out is that the lottery does not connect to anything else. It is not a required purchase like some insurance is; it is not a tax on an item or activity that you have other reason to purchase or engage in; it is not a human need such as food or medical care. I do agree with much of what stomv said above regarding alleviating the effects.

              • People need money

                In our society, people need money. People need money to eat.

                Poor people who needed money were victimized by organized crime for decades with the same racket the state is now in — and that you join Mr. Grossman in defending. “The numbers racket” was rightly illegal for generations, because it was clearly predatory and devastating to the people and neighborhoods where it was common.

                Desperately poor people fall prey to scams like the Lottery for the same reason that desperately ill people are vulnerable to fraudulent medication claims. It’s perfectly legal for unscrupulous firms to package utterly useless substances that do no obvious harm and sell them as cures for cancer, aging, balding, and all manner of other disorders. Even though legal, surely the state shouldn’t set up its own Herbalife competitor.

                Let me restate the motivation for this exchange. Steve Grossman is running for Governor. As treasurer, he made no effort to reform the Lottery or restrain its predatory practices — instead, he did just the opposite. As a candidate for Governor, the exchange cited above demonstrates to my satisfaction that he, apparently like you, is perfectly happy with exploiting our most vulnerable populations in order to collect money for affluent towns.

                I reject that argument, and so long as Mr. Grossman maintains it, I reject his candidacy.

                • Again...

                  …I think your argument is more that we need to provide other ways to make sure people have what they need to live. I see the motivation for this exchange as the diarist’s original complaint that basically comes down to how dare the Treasurer do his job. I’m also pretty sure there are truth in labeling and advertising laws that make it ILLEGAL to claim something that’s not true about your product.

                  • He put his history on the table, not me

                    My objection is not that he “[did] his job” as treasurer, it is instead that his campaign’s response cited by the OP doubles down on that role.

                    Sadly, the gap between the truth in labeling and advertising laws and reality is huge. No over-the-counter medication is going to make hair grow. No over-the-counter medication is going to stop you from getting cancer (or do any of the other absurd claims made these days). Spending most of your paycheck is NOT going to make you wealthy in the state Lottery. The two have approximately the same degree of “truth”.

                    • Two things:

                      I have never seen a lottery ad that at all guarantees you will win, just that the chance is available.

                      On health products there is constantly the disclaimer I read and hear that, “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

                    • Yes, and pornography was "educational" as well

                      You may not be old enough to remember this, but for a VERY long time (after a Supreme Court decision excluded “educational” materials from obscenity laws), every skin mag and 8mm reel was accompanied by a similar disclaimer that read “this product is intended for educational purposes” or something to that effect.

                      Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said (I paraphrase) “[I don't know how to define] ‘obscenity’, but I know it when I see it”.

                      Just because a package says something doesn’t make it so.

                    • Back to the lottery...

                      …I have never seen a claim of guaranteed winnings, though if we want to be more explicit about actual odds that would be fine with me. At least that would work I think with scratch tickets. The odds vary based on number of purchasers for playing the numbers, right?

              • Christopher- the lottery is a seduction, just like the Sirens of Greek mythology

                The tickets are at eye-level where the cashier is, the impulse purchase right before you leave. When you enter many stores, one sees “$100,000 scratch ticker sold here” or “Powerball jackpot $60 Million”. Where have I heard “can’t win unless you play” and don’t forget the tv ad of the shiny new fire truck that went to a town b/c of the lottery.

                Do we want Massachusetts to lead or follow every other state, who like a crack addict hitting the pipe for one last high, are expanding their gaming industry, trying to siphon every last buck from the would-be suckers who can least afford it.

                Tom-great commentary on the lottery, you said it all.

                • So in other words...

                  …it’s well-advertised. I see all the signs too and could use a big payoff, but really, you can ignore it and resist the temptation, and probably should.

                  • Christopher- how can you be so glib about this?

                    Clearly the people who are most vulnerable(poor and low income) are not able to resist it.

                    It is nor enuff to say “he was doing his job”. I would rather have someone who can recognize a glaring problem and make some adjustments. The lottery is vulture capitalism by the states, IMO. Grossman continued the lottery’s picking at the carcasses of the very people your party claims to help.

                  • Again you generalize from YOU to everyone

                    Christopher, YOU can “ignore and resist the temptation”.

                    A great many people who are a great deal more desperate than you (and another great many who suffer from a disorder that, fortunately, does not afflict you) are NOT able to do the same.

                    You advocate actively promoting something that is, for the vulnerable, very dangerous for them — and you then blame them when they fall victim to it.

                    Sorry, but the most generous characterization of that I can invent is “callous” and “unfeeling”. It is, in my view, perilously close to “immoral” (depending on ethical system that underlies such matters).

                    Not to be too snide, but seriously — what would Jesus do?

                    • Jesus would probably overturn the money changing tables...

                      …but as we remind our conservative counterparts all the time this is not a theocracy.

                      I’m finally going to push back on this generalization theme. I’m not sure what disorder you are refering to, but frankly why CAN’T most people also resist? God has not as far as I know blessed me with some supernatural powers. It’s not like I’m making calculations as to odds that requires higher-order math that others can’t handle; simply to say the odds are extremely unlikely is good enough for me regardless of what they are exactly. I’m flattered, but I think you give me way too much credit and others too little. Besides, it’s not as if I’m alone here; I know there are plenty of others not well off who also are not in the habit of playing the lottery.

                    • "Gambling addiction"

                      The disorder is “Gambling Addiction”, and it is just as real as alcoholism, tobacco addiction, eating disorders, and similar afflictions.

                      The state lottery commission (and every casino operator) intentionally and explicitly exploits the victims of that disorder. An enormous portion of those victims are destitute — like “situational depression”, being desperately poor greatly magnifies the impact of any weakness a person may have.

                    • But what percentage does that afflict?

                      I did deliberately ask why “most” others rather than “all” others couldn’t resist as i know it is a problem for some, but I strongly suspect not the vast majority.

                      BTW, though it probably sounds like it here I am actually not actively advocating for the lottery. Just as I don’t care if it does exist I equally don’t care if it doesn’t since as I’ve said I hardly ever play anyway. If you want to abolish it my only concern would be making up the revenue the state gets for it so we would need a plan for that, preferably a politically viable one. Meanwhile I contend it is the job of the Treasurer to not onlly administer it, but he has a fiduciary responsibility to the state to promote it.

                    • Do you know what Massachusetts residents spend on the lottery per capita?

                      It’s about $800 a year, according to the latest numbers I can find.

                      $800 a year is a lot of money … and there are a lot of people in MA who don’t spend anywhere near that amount. So what that means is that the people who do spend money on the lottery spend significantly more than $800 a year.

                      So when you take the position you are taking, just be aware that the state knows very well where this money is coming from, and that it is actively choosing to redistribute wealth in this way. Whether or not it is accurate to call the lottery a “tax,” it is surely accurate to call it a regressive redistribution of wealth.

                    • Ok David

                      Would you repeal the lottery and outlaw that? That is what the OP is faulting Steve Grossman for not doing, and seems to be what Tom and Dan want too. What are the numbers on taxes generates by revenue from cigarette and alcohol sales, or the sales and gas taxes while we are at it which are also consumption based and thereby regressive for lower income taxpayers?

                      I think the difference is people think that smoking and drinking are vices that should be taxes as a behavioral or vice tax to discourage their use while they think the state is encouraging a bad habit with the lottery. But, Tom brought up the fact that the old organized crime lotteries are gone, one could argue without a legal state lottery they could come back and/or people could drive
                      to neighboring states and purchase tickets there and we don’t get the revenue. The fight against casinos is data based-on the fact that these private industries suck up tax subsidies, increase costs to municipalities they are in, have terrible externalities they give off, and eventually generate little revenue. We also know the process as it stands is clearly biased toward the industry and riddled with conflicts of interest. It can bankrupt people. The lottery never has and never will. Moral aversions to gambling are perfectly ok-but we should honestly ask ourselves if a Carrie Nation approach to the lottery is a fair and reality based approach. We will have a hard
                      Enough time beating casinos-lets do that before we move on the lottery a government program that actually is quite popular and generates healthy revenues that go back to the community-unlike casinos.

                    • Enabling behavior

                      I responded to something approximating this question earlier today on the other thread about this topic.

                      I suggest that lottery (and casino) revenues only perpetuate the worst and most irrational delusions of our population (and voters) about taxes and tax revenues. I reject the characterization of my stance towards the lottery as a “Carrie Nation approach” — you seem to forget that you are responding the very real and devastating data about where the lottery revenue actually comes from.

                      Objecting to a state wealth transfer program that takes money from our poorest residents and transfers it to our most affluent is not, in my view, a “Carrie Nation” attitude.

                      I also reject the “competition” argument about gambling. Shall we open state-sponsored brothels because organized crime is collecting potential tax revenue from people buying sex? How about meth and oxy — we lose LOTS of tax revenue from that. Maybe we can repurpose our state crime labs to produce those — imagine all the local aid money THAT would generate.

                      Here’s another way to recapture the $1 billion or so that the lottery currently distributes in local aid:

                      Raise the state income tax enough to generate $5 billion in new taxes. Stop the lottery altogether. Now announce and heavily advertise a new game: “Everyone’s a player”.

                      Announce the drawing of a handful of winners chosen at random from state taxpayers. Invent a daily game where the digits of a winning social security number are selected by drawing brightly-colored little balls from a big glass jar. Select a handful of “big money winners” every year. Heck, make the awards “tax free” (from state, not federal, taxes). Use the advertising budget that has until now gone to the lottery to invent and promote these new “games”.

                      However we do it, take the new revenue from an INCOME TAX stream, and force (by implication) EVERY income tax player to participate.

                      There is nothing “healthy” about the revenues generated from the Lottery. It is blood-money, extracted from those LEAST able to afford it.

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