Like it or not, casinos are the big issue in this year’s Democratic primaries

I know, I’ve seemed a bit obsessed with the casino issue lately.  In part, that’s because (disclosure alert) I spent a lot of time working on Repeal The Casino Deal’s ballot question case that is currently under consideration at the Supreme Judicial Court.

But in more important part, it’s because the casino issue one of the few that is drawing sharp contrasts between the candidates in a variety of races, while major differences on other big issues are proving hard to find.  Yes, Don Berwick’s support for single-payer health care sets him apart from the other Democrats running for Governor.  But even if Berwick wins, single-payer is years away at best.  Casinos are coming much sooner than that.

If the SJC doesn’t allow the question on the ballot, the issue will likely fade somewhat.  But if the question does make the ballot, it will be a huge topic right up through primary day.  And I think that’s a good thing.

Why?  Am I so blinded by my work on the casino case that I’ve turned into a single-issue voter?  Well, maybe a little.  But, actually, I think there are bigger-picture issues lurking in the casino debate that tell us a lot, not only about the candidates’ stands on casinos, but more broadly about what’s important to them.

Consider, for example, a candidate whom I really want to like, but whose stand on this issue I find to be totally unsatisfactory: Juliette Kayyem.  She’s been asked a number of times about casinos, and her response has been consistently along the lines of “I support the revenue that casinos are going to bring.”

But this is obviously an inadequate answer.  There are lots of ways we could raise a shit-ton of revenue.  We could, for example, repeal the $4,400 personal income tax exemption.  That would probably bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  But it would do so by substantially increasing taxes on the lowest income taxpayers, while making barely a dent in the tax bill of wealthier taxpayers.  It is therefore a terrible idea, and surely neither Kayyem nor any other Democratic candidate would seriously consider this proposal – even though it would bring in a lot of money that could be spent on schools, health care, and other awesome stuff.

In other words, it doesn’t make sense to support a policy simply because it brings in revenue.  You have to look at the policy itself.  Is the policy fair?  Does it bring in revenue from people who can afford to pay more?  Or does the way in which the policy brings in revenue cause more harm than good?

In other words, Kayyem’s answer is a dodge.  Of course, being able to spend more money on schools (for example) would be better than not being able to do so, other things being equal.  But other things are not equal.  A massive policy change like bringing casinos into the state will do a lot more than bring in a few extra bucks.  Especially because (if the experience of every casino on the planet is any guide) we already know that the revenue will indeed come mostly from those who can’t really afford it, a position on casinos that doesn’t engage those other impacts is simply not good enough.

The casino question can tell us how the candidates balance the benefit of the revenue and jobs that casinos would undoubtedly bring (they’d certainly bring some, though probably less than has been predicted) against the costs that they would undoubtedly impose.  That balancing, in turn, can give a lot of insight into the candidates’ priorities.  Also, the casino question is a policy issue that, at its core, is easy to understand: do you want your town (or the town down the road) to look like Las Vegas, or don’t you?  It’s an issue that the press likes to cover; it has big personalities associated with it (Steve Wynn gave Commonwealth Magazine one of the best interviews in recent Massachusetts political history); and, if the question is on the ballot, it will have a staggering amount of money thrown at it this fall.

In short, if the question makes the ballot, there will be no escaping the casino issue for the candidates, or for the voters.  Nor should there be.



Discuss

104 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. And not just how they think about revenue, jobs, and costs.

    One of the great things about the casino issue is the ways in which the comments the candidates have made about it illuminate the strengths and weaknesses they bring to their evaluation of an issue on a more general level.

    Kayyem’s response to the casino question in an early debate in Northampton makes for a useful quick example. In saying she supported casinos, she spoke about revenue, but also argued that the gaming act was well-crafted legislation that provided appropriate protection for local interests and residents in affected communities. That part of her answer was arguably even more important in terms of voter information than her stand on casinos. It tells us something about what she considers to be well-crafted legislation, and that matters. A governor may at times reasonably believe that badly-flawed legislation is still the best that can be passed, that it represents the right broad policy, and that signing it is the right thing to do; but they should still be able to tell that it’s a badly-flawed bill, and ideally be willing to say so.

    And so on. It’s a useful lens through which to look at all our candidates, beyond the simple matter of where they stand on the casino issue itself.

    • Well, yes, but

      To me the casino proposal has been rotten from the get-go. In his announcement, Deval talked about the good things casinos would fund. In other words, he was already trying to cushion casinos in a pillow of virtue.

      EVERYONE in public life has known from the start that casinos would bring nothing but trouble, but they weighed that trouble against the alternatives (like raising taxes), and to be fair for a time it seemed like there were no alternatives, and they held their noses and voted for casinos.

      Or, took a truckload of cash to sell them. Some people did that.

    • Forgot to mention

      The well-crafted bit Kayyem praises, the “protection” for local interests, is also a red flag.

      • But that's the point.

        It’s one thing to say to the public, “Look, this deal is rotten, it comes with the following costs, but under all the circumstances we have to do it anyway, and here’s why.” It’s another thing to say, “All right, there are drawbacks to doing this, but we’ve worked out an approach that does a good job of protecting against the worst potential harms and of maximizing the public benefits we expect to get out of this,” when that statement is actually true.

        And it’s another thing entirely to say, “There are drawbacks to doing this, but this is an approach that protects everybody, no, seriously, it does!” when for technical reasons the approach you’re touting fails to do that. It means that either you’re trying to sell the public a bill of goods or that you yourself don’t understand the flaws in what you’re trying to sell. Neither possibility is a good thing in a potential governor, and that would be true whether the issue were casinos or education policy or civil rights protections.

        • Sorry no sale

          Of all the thousands of types of businesses that we could have … biotech, law firms, whatever … there’s just no reason to support casinos. And everyone knew that, and sought cover in these protections.

          The well-crafted legislation would have been no legislation at all.

          Ask yourself: if the casino lobby had not been here for nigh on 20 years, promising the sky … would we even have this discussion? It is a collective failure.

          Though, frankly, no one deserves more blame than Governor Patrick. Casinos will be his legacy.

          • Agreed,

            but don’t forget Speaker DeLeo. Without him driving the issue in the House, this wouldn’t have happened. He saw easy revenue without having to cast a vote for some broad based tax to raise it. He remembers the last time they did it and what it cost them, and are afraid of having that vote pinned to his chest.

            The casinos can promise quick cash whereas investments in biotech, law, etc offer nowhere the amount or speed, plus the skills they require for their jobs is much higher. Still, I would rather be known for biotech than gambling.

            I still don’t want casinos here. I very rarely played the lottery, preferring some other sucker to provide that revenue instead of me, and with casinos, it will be the same thing.

          • I agree that there was probably no good way to do this.

            But it is still the case that this is terrible legislation, technically as well as in terms of underlying policy. It is terrible legislation even if you want to have casinos in Massachusetts. It does not do what it is supposedly intended to do; you wind up its machinery and instead of running as intended the thing explodes. As the current controversies over the Boston-area proposals demonstrate, the bill has obvious, glaring problems written into it: it is absurd on its face that a city should have the right to vote on a proposal or not based on whether a developer can figure out a way to move its footprint a few hundred feet to one side or another. And that’s just one example. Maybe there was no perfect way to do it, but there’s a middle ground between legislation that has holes like this one and no legislation at all because we agree that casinos stink.

            The problems with the legislation were knowable. You read it over and you see them. Or else you don’t. If a candidate for high office doesn’t see glaring problems with a bill, that’s a bad thing: it means they’re unlikely to see glaring problems with other bills. (Which will exist, even in areas where the underlying policy goals are solid. Drafting legislation is hard, in almost any area.) This is stuff that has consequences when you get it wrong.

            And if a candidate does see them and nevertheless tells the public they aren’t there? Then that says something about them that we as voters also need to know.

  2. I agree generally

    Casinos are the most tangible issue, and the most differentiating. My candidate has disappointed me on casinos, but I don’t see a viable alternative, so I’m still with him.

    • Huh?

      An educated guess would ID that candidate as Grossman. I would strongly argue against tactical voting in the convention if you are a delegate and in the primary until you have to. If the morning before the primary, Berwick is still somewhere in single digits and Grossman is within a point or two from a Coakley by all means vote for Grossman-I’d be joining you. But, there are still four months to go before the eve of the primary so I don’t get it.

      I made the same argument, and as David pointed out, I clearly agreed with Berwick on every issue and he has a decent governing team in place. Realistically it’s not just single payer but the family and sick leave policies that will be an uphill climb that will take a long time, but Berwick will be a bulwark against casinos in day 1. His vision for single payer may never come to pass-I’m enough of a realist to get that (our President had a similar vision…)-but if the voters turn down casinos only Berwick is ready to defend their choice from legislative chicanery and ensure it never goes back on the ballot. It would be a tremendous win, and would signal to other politicians which side of the fence they should be on.

      • It's not tactical voting

        Grossman is the best candidate. Period.

        He’s disappointing me on casinos, but every candidate disappoints me on something.

        • "Grossman is the best candidate. Period."

          Why? I’d love to have someone explain that one in detail.

          • In brief

            - Depth of experience
            - Commitment to public service and the Democratic Party in particular
            - Spotless record of integrity

            The others all have merits, but none of them have all that.

            He could be a bit more exciting, but he’s a good contrast with Baker.

            • Except for maybe the commitment to “the Democratic Party in particular,” I’d say Berwick easily has those characteristics in spades.

              Also, I don’t see commitment to party as a great plus. Commitment to values, on the other hand, is.

              • Berwick has never held public office

                n/t

                • There's a first time for everything...

                  Should Berwick have started out running for school board? He has great ideas and a track record of accomplishment – and our current governor never held public office prior to his first term, if my memory serves me correctly.

                • Neither has Elizabeth Warren or Deval Patrick. Or three of the last five Governors I might add. Neither did Grossman when he ran for Governor the first time or four years ago when he ran for Treasurer.

                  I’ve long agreed with sabutai and others that experience should count, and being an insider shouldn’t taint someone from the get go, I would be backing Dan Wolf if he stayed in this race precisely because he knows his way around Beacon Hill. I backed Capuano over Khazi since I didn’t understand why an unproven, corporate leaning CEO of a mixed bag non profit would make a better Senator than a former Mayor of a major city who had five terms of progressive votes and leadership in the House. I’d have backed Markey over any outsider who might’ve run in the primary since he had that experience, and thought he would nicely compliment Warren in that regard.

                  But for this particular race, I think we need someone who can get the base out and fire it up to beat Baker, someone who provides the greatest possible contrast with Baker on the issues and with his life experience. Someone who takes the best position on every issue and not just some, and who provides the boldest agenda going forward. Let me be clear-I like Grossman and I am not bashing him in the slightest. Competency and experience are underrated in political campaigns, and sometimes are viewed as liabilities when they shouldn’t be, I just wish Steve had the right take on casinos and I wish he was committed to a bolder vision for the Commonwealth. Berwick definitely is. He is my first choice, and Steve is my second.

                  • I'm intrigued with Berwick, but I would be cautious in viewing him as

                    a bold outsider who is completely free of the usual special interests and political ties. As a former Obama administration official, he undoubtedly comes with some inside connections.

                    In his recent online town hall event, I emailed a question to him about his view on the Pelletier case and whether he would seek to reunite her with her family. Unless I missed it, my question didn’t come up, and, based on what I saw of the “town hall” video, there was plenty of opportunity for him to get to it.

                    Sure, the Pelletier case sounds like a narrow issue on its face, but in my view, it says a lot about what a candidate thinks about the coercive power of governmental and other institutions. If Berwick wasn’t a cautious politician like everyone else, it seems to me he would have taken on that and any other question put to him.

                • Not sure why "elective" office

                  should be the requirement. Berwick ran a huge federal agency.

                • Elected office is not the only public service

                  Being a pediatrician and dedicating his career to improving health care through IHI and as head of Medicare and Medicaid (a public job with significantly larger scope than treasurer of a state) is service to the public in my book, and it’s work directly relevant to the role of governor.

                  Grossman has certainly done a lot, but if we’re only counting government jobs or elected positions, his experience is also very limited.

                  Is being party head public service to you whereas what Berwick has done is not?

                • "Berwick has never held public office"

                  This is the lamest critique in the book. The “career path” approach to choosing elected officials is a race to the bottom that yields timid, unimaginative and uninspiring candidates whose principal frame of reference is the business, rather than the substance, of politics. The polling support for Coakley and Grossman has nothing to do with grassroots connections or articulation of principles and everything to do with a tepid brew of routine press exposure, money, and glad-handing within the party establishment.

                  Also, are you really suggesting that Don Berwick does not possess

                  “- Depth of experience
                  - Commitment to public service
                  - Spotless record of integrity” ?!

                  Please note that I left out “commitment… to the Democratic Party in particular” because, as I’m sure Speaker DeLeo would tell you, that means nada in the real world except when it comes to feathering one’s pension.

                  • yes and no

                    I definitely agree with you that outsiders can do great things. Warren for one. And I definitely agree that attacking Berwick as inexperienced since he has never been an elected official is a bit of a canard. So have many progressive leaders, including JimC’s own Steve Grossman who only recently became a public official. But I also strongly believe that being an insider is not a disqualifier either, this statement is also troubling for it’s implications:

                    he “career path” approach to choosing elected officials is a race to the bottom that yields timid, unimaginative and uninspiring candidates whose principal frame of reference is the business, rather than the substance, of politics.

                    It doesn’t always yield timid and uninspiring candidate. It yielded James McGovern, who might be our most progressive delegation member and who served in prior positions, it yielded Mike Dukakis who was a state rep before he was a Governor, it yielded Marty Walsh who was a state rep before he was a Mayor, it yielded Bill de Blasio in New York who served in a plethora of local offices, and it yielded every Democratic President since Roosevelt-himself a long time climber and elected official.

                    My point is, we should evaluate candidates based on the issues they will fight for, the positions they take on those issues, and their record on fighting for and getting results on this issues in the past. Period.

                    Based on that metric, Elizabeth Warren’s record as a consumer activist and regulator was strong enough that we knew what we would get if we sent her to the Senate. Similarly, Don Berwick has a record of service in the public and private sectors that shows he is willing to fight for big and bold legislation and also design them in a way that they can actually be implemented. He has legislators backing him who will hit the ground running with their colleagues on day 1.

                    • You're right, of course.

                      But your examples are interesting. Marty Walsh excepted, all of them succeeded by running against the establishment within which they had incubated their careers. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that Dukakis, Carter and de Blasio go to bed at night thinking of themselves as cranky, outsider gadflies, their civics-club-from-the-cradle life paths notwithstanding. FDR’s co-option of the Democratic Party was one of the twentieth century’s most breathtaking acts of political jujitsu. And who was more of an insider than the Duke’s N.U. colleague, Mikhail Gorbachev?

                      Ultimately, insider/outsider status comes down to whether you are actively trying to re-define the system, or passively allowing the system to define you.

                      My previous comment reflects my exasperation with folks who expect me to fall in line behind a candidate solely on the basis of that candidate’s resume and track record of party loyalty (“It’s so-and-so’s turn!”) and/or ability to raise money (So-and-so is the inevitable frontrunner!”). Feh.

                    • Sorry, not Mike Dukakis

                      I know Mike Dukakis. I literally can’t imagine Mike Dukakis “[going] to bed at night thinking of [himself] as [a] cranky outsider gadfly”.

                      The Mike Dukakis I know is a man who loves people, loves politics, and who has a clear vision for Massachusetts, the Democratic Party, and for local and federal government. The Mike Dukakis I know worked (and works) WITHIN the party to make that vision real.

                      Mike Dukakis is NOT “cranky”, he has never been a “gadfly”, and I would choose him above Martha Coakley in a millisecond. The reality, though, is that Mike Dukakis is not in this race.

                      I note, by the way, that Mike Dukakis is no fan of casino gambling.

                    • Fair enough.

                      Perhaps my choice of adjectives was less than apt.

                    • I would also cede

                      that some “insiders” possess great appeal simply by virtue of their irrepressible relish for the game. Jim McGovern and Barney Frank are great exemplars of this type. How I miss Barney on the floor!

                • Good

                  Neither had Deval L. Patrick

            • This doesn't compute

              You make great arguments up thread against casinos JimC

              Of all the thousands of types of businesses that we could have … biotech, law firms, whatever … there’s just no reason to support casinos. And everyone knew that, and sought cover in these protections.

              The well-crafted legislation would have been no legislation at all.

              Ask yourself: if the casino lobby had not been here for nigh on 20 years, promising the sky … would we even have this discussion? It is a collective failure.

              Though, frankly, no one deserves more blame than Governor Patrick. Casinos will be his legacy.

              Would it not also be Governor Grossman’s legacy since he is the most bullish pro-casino candidate in the primary, has a record of expanding the lottery to generate more revenue, and would be the Governor tasked with implementing the casino law if the voters uphold it?

              To me it speaks about values. I am now a Berwick supporter, but I was leaning Grossman for most of the race, he is still my second choice and I would vote for him to prevent Coakley from getting nominated if it comes to that. But it really speaks about values and agenda.

              Steve has a fairly safe agenda: raising the minimum wage, family leave, sick leave, and expanding casinos to raise revenue to pay for those things. On that list of four-which is the most likely to get support from Bobby DeLeo and the Leg? I would argue preserving and expanding casinos.

              We need to really change our politics and the culture on Beacon Hill-Deval has been a bit of a failure in that regard and I am hopeful that Berwick will rely on the grassroots and allies in the legislature to make that difference. Using people like Sonia Chang Diaz and Jamie Elridge to move his agenda forward in the Senate, Rosenberg should be a better ally than Murray, and hopefully we can get more progressives in the House. I see Berwick wanting not just to lead an office of government but to lead a movement.

              I get the skepticism though-one of my initial attractions to Grossman was that he was a known quantity on Beacon Hill and has had successes getting his offices policy initiatives passed. Patrick and Obama have been disappointments to me, and I logged in a lot of hours and miles on their behalf, but I get the sense from Berwick that he will be closer to Liz Warren than those two in his passion, priorities, and follow through.

              • I don't have a good answer

                I’d rather he opposed casinos, but he supports them.

                Like I said, they’re all disappointing in some way. There’s enough good in Steve Grossman for me to still support him. None of the others have gotten me excited, and each has one glaring flaw.

                • Where is Berwick's glaring flaw, in your opinion?

                  I’m not being snarky, I truly would like to know what you see as his glaring flaw. If it’s his lack of elective office, see above – if not, please elaborate, thanks.

                  • Not well known, never run for anything

                    It wasn’t that long ago that people on this very site were talking about “the doctor” as an afterthought. Granted, he’s come on a bit since then.

                    You guys can dismiss that as a qualification all you want, and I can come back with “untested,” which is the same thing. The only way to resolve it is to nominate him (or not nominate him, in favor of the guy who has run and won a contested race statewide).

                  • Hey JohnT

                    I think we have some great choices for Governor. I’m with Steve Grossman. He is a man of great integrity that has a record of speaking up for the issues he believes and being effective.
                    I prefer Berwick’s position on casino’s. As jconway articulated well, choices are weighing a candidates platform, campaigning ability, record, experience, etc.
                    Not being snarky, I have been unsure how much weight to put on Berwick’s inexperience in elected office. How well can he perform having to deal with the brick wall we know as DeLeo?
                    Elizabeth Warren showed her stuff lobbying for the consumer protection act and in the hearings. Different set of skills than running an agency.
                    Do you have an example or do you feel his positions outweigh political experience?

                • Also, $30 scratch tickets?

                  Really?

                • Support? I think not.

                  No, He is a voracious proponent of casinos, online gambling, large lotto tickets and entertaining Happy Hours re-installation with ABCC. Talk about incestuous and conflicted relationships abound.

                  No, sorry. He’s a rich boy who has had money to throw around for decades at Democratic candidates and special interests.

                  He’s nice enough in a smarmy kinda way but please let’s not confuse privilege and establishment politicians – who in Massachusetts are Democrats but should probably have (P) for politician at the end of their names – with the real thing.

                  • Hey, don't hold back like that

                    Say what you really think.

                    I find “voracious” unfair, and being national party chair is a thankless job that someone has to do. I’m assuming that’s what you mean by the “throw money around” bit.

                    • "Massachusetts' Chief Online Gambling Proponent"

                      DNC chair may be a pita but when you are owning class – don’t have to actually work to survive – it’s a gig where you get to schmooze and connect…..connect and schmooze some more. Throw the money around is about the history of contributions to so many candidates that he could be the Democratic party ATM. Is that a bad thing? Hell no. I have stated in previous posts that he’s a great political philanthropist and should stay with what he does best. Pay to play. I am not even talking about the DNC money.

                      And yes, he is a voracious stalwart supporter of gambling revenue past, present and future. So says the gambling industry.

                      Grossman believes Lottery should get into online gambling business

                      On a more positive note, over the past few years State Treasurer Steve Grossman has been one of Massachusetts’ chief online gambling proponent, and recently sponsored bill S.101, that could potentially eliminate the barriers to selling online lottery tickets or accepting credit card payments. Grossman is Coakley’s chief Democratic rival for the gubernatorial race, with the current State Treasurer envisioning a completely different future for Massachusetts in which a regulated online gaming industry is run by the state using land based lottery retailers to sell its products.

                      Interestingly, Grossman’s bill is actually based on the December 2012 report he convened, which eventually concluded that online gambling products would inevitably be introduced to Massachusetts, and that “if the Lottery does not enter this online market, other entrants – including commercial casinos, tribal casinos, commercial gaming companies and other states – will.”

                      You are entitled to your candidate. It just seems that there are lots of progressives who aren’t buying establishment D’s as the future we want.

                      Cheers.

            • "Spotless record of integrity"?

              Treasurer wrestles with potential conflicts over family firm.

              http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/16/state-treasurer-grossman-wrestles-with-conflicts-over-family-firm/YNBWu2GsmgweqfN9H5Rn6I/story.html

              Grossman take donations from liquor lobby he regulates

              http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2011/09/30/grossman_takes_donations_from_liquor_lobby_he_regulates/

              Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman discloses he may owe $500,000 in back taxes

              http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/08/massachusetts_treasurer_steven.html

              It’s time for Grossman to set up that portable podium again.

        • You support online gambling Grossman?

          People like David and Berwick are trying to prevent slot machines that are as addictive and harmful as crack cocaine. And their primary targets are the poor and most desperate among us. Online gaming just makes it easier to hook people on this crack.

          I don’t understand your support of Grossman when there is a viable alternative…

          • Who is the viable alternative?

            Let me guess….”A vote for Baker” “A vote for Grossman” ;)

            • Mike- Baker is against the crack version of lottery sales known as online gambling

              So yes, Baker is superior to Grossman. But Berwick appears to check most if the boxes for most Democrats.

              • Online gambling is already illegal at the federal level...

                so this is a red herring.

                Also, Sheldon Adelson is against online gambling because it undercuts his business. So being against online gambling puts one in the same company is Sheldon Adelson, No Thank You!

                • Online lottery sales will lead to online poker and blackjack

                  Your buddy Harry Reid praises Adelson last week, so that makes him on your team, right?

                  ““I know Sheldon Adelson — he’s not in this for money. He’s in it because he has certain ideological views,” Reid said. “Sheldon Adelson, don’t pick on him — he’s not in it to make money.”

                  • This may come as a shock, but Harry Reid is not my Obi-Wan!

                    I don’t like him and would prefer almost anyone else as senate majority leader who is actually a progressive and will fight for progressive values. I.E. not Yertle the Turtle from Kentucky, probably someone like Chuck Schumer. or even Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

                    And Sheldon Adelson can go to hell for all I care! He is not on my “Team”.

                    • Speaking of Kentucky...

                      Secretary of State and progressive Democrat, Alison Lundergan Grimes, won her primary yesterday and will be facing Senator Mitch McConnell in November. The daughter of a former state rep and Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, she could actually beat him as the last 17 polls have shown her either tied or slightly ahead of McConnell! If you have a few extra dollars send them her way!

                    • Link...

                      You can contribute to the Grimes campaign here:

                      https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/alg_website?refcode=general

                    • I love Alison Grimes of Kentucky, she is a NRA member just like me

                      Grimes said “As an NRA member, my strong support for the Second Amendment is unquestioned”. Grimes supports Keystone XL and has this to say on coal. “I strongly oppose President Obama’s attack on Kentucky’s energy industry. This Administration has taken direct aim at Kentucky’s coal industry,” and “that developing Kentucky’s supplies of coal is crucial.”

                      Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
                      And up ahead there’s a town that I’ll go walking through
                      With the rain in my shoes
                      Searching for you
                      In the cold Kentucky rain

                  • Shonda Watch

                    Sheldon Adelson—shonda of the decade.

                    • How is a shonda different from a shlameel?

                      I know schlimazel, but I have never heard of a shonda.

                    • Shonda = shame

                      The guy’s a disgrace.

                      Still, I think he’s mostly interested in protecting his personal interests and his particular vision for Israel. The Koch brothers, on the other hand, have an explicit anti-public-sector ideology they push all over the country.

                    • I've just consulted my official Uriel Weinreich Yiddish dictionary on this.

                      A shame or disgrace is a shand. An online dictionary also lists the term shande (pronounced shandeh).
                      I think shonda is an Anglicized version of this. A shlimazel is an unlucky person or a ne’er-do-well. Weinrich doesn’t have shlimil, but I found it online. A shlimil is a bungler.

                • Not true since 2012

                  It was widely reported (in pieces like this), that the Justice Department issued an opinion in 2012 allowing online lottery sales (emphasis mine):

                  Steve Grossman, state treasurer, is forming a task force to consider whether Massachusetts should institute online sales of lottery tickets following a recent legal opinion from the Justice Department that clears the way for states to do so.

                  The department issued the opinion in response to requests by the states of New York and Illinois to clarify whether the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state or international borders, prevents states from using the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within their own borders.

                  The new interpretation said the Wire Act applies only to bets on a “sporting event or contest.”

                  One question is whether the opinion will set the stage for a boom in nonsports Internet betting. “If the Department of Justice is saying that the Wire Act only applies to sports-related wagering, then that opens it up for everyone else who is offering online poker, online table games, and so on,” said Kimberly Herman, a lawyer who represents lottery equipment makers for the Boston office of the law firm Sullivan & Worcester. “There’s so much money involved, they are all going to rush in.”

  3. Frankly, I don't understand making this the issue

    Some facts:
    1. Casinos are the law of the land, currently
    2. Voters will vote on repeal in November
    3. It is very likely that either because it’s already repealed, or because it survived repeal and there’s no legislative will to repeal, no candidate in this race will ever have a say on casinos

    Why would you base your choice on who could potentially be a constitutional officer for the next eight years or more on a political position that will have 0 bearing on how a candidate runs their office?

    • I think the idea

      is that, if it’s on the ballot (which is not yet clear), the nominee’s position could influence the voters on the ballot question. That was the argument raised in favor of Maura Healey’s new anti-casino positions. I’m not sure I buy it.

    • Because, as I said in the post,

      the casino issue goes beyond the simple question of whether we should build a large hotel/gambling complex in Everett. If you peel back just one or two layers, you can learn a lot about a candidate’s priorities and the tradeoffs that he or she is willing to make.

      • Also,

        I disagree with you that a candidate’s position on casinos “will have 0 bearing on how a candidate runs their office.” If the casino law stays in place, the issues will be ongoing for years.

      • I understand the argument but

        I think you can learn a lot more about a candidate’s priorities by reading up on a candidate’s priorities rather than reading too much into a decision on casinos these candidates will likely never have to actually make.

        I understand that casino repeal is popular here. I just think there are far more pressing concerns facing the Commonwealth.

        • And yet

          The Casinos are bad public policy. Anyone who is for them has suspect judgement in my book and won’t get my vote, at least in the primary.

          • What about single payer?

            Do you honestly think support of casino repeal is more important than support for progressive healthcare? I’m not saying that’s the big issue either, just using it as an example.

            • What about it?

              Realistically, does anyone believe that any of these candidates are going to bring us single payer? And even so, Berwick be the most likely person to do it? So what kind of example is that?

              The reason that casinos are such an important issue is that the time to stop casinos is before we have any, not ten-twenty years from now.

              And as I said, any candidate that thinks the casinos are a good idea either hasn’t thought about the issue very carefully or just has bad judgement. Either way, that loses my confidence that they are going to exercise care and good judgement on other issues.

      • I agree that their position on casinos says a lot about a candidate's priorities.

        Are they interested in programs and policies that will create high-paying, sustainable jobs, or are they looking for a supposedly quick and easy source of state revenue that brings a host of problems with it such as gambling addiction and organized crime and corruption?

    • It's not just about casinos.

      Because the candidates have different positions on casinos, and are out in the field explaining their positions on the subject (or avoiding explaining their positions as hard as they can), what they say about the issue tells us a lot about how they think about public policy. Since the future is inherently somewhat unpredictable, and we can’t know precisely what circumstances and issues a governor will have to face over the coming four to eight years, knowing how they’re likely to approach problems in general is as important as knowing whether they’re for or against any specific proposal. Or, it is once you’ve assured yourself that their general values and goals are in line with yours.

      I’m not convinced that support or lack of support for casinos will have zero bearing on how a candidate would run their office. But even if I were, what they say about casinos now tells us a tremendous amount about how they would run their office. That’s one reason, if not the only reason, why it is and should be a big deal for us now.

    • What's hard to understand?

      Everyone will be talking about the issue, therefore it is something that the candidates will be asked about. You can bet hard money that when there is a hot political issue during a statewide race, that it will be a campaign issue. When has that ever not been the case in the past?

  4. Thank you David for trying to stop the blight of casinos in Massachusetts

    I would be more upset at Coakley fighting to keep this issue off the ballot and away from the voters.

    Good luck and give them hell for all of us!

  5. Casinos are a defining issue because they contribute to inequality, which is THE defining issue

    The biggest and most important reason why casinos are a defining issue of our times is this: Unfairness and inequality of opportunity are at the top of the agenda for our country and our state. President Obama described it as “the defining challenge of our time” and declared it would be the primary focus for the remainder of his presidency.

    Yet mounting independent evidence confirms that government’s public policy of promoting and sponsoring casinos is contributing to this unfairness and inequality. It is harming health, draining wealth from people in the lower ranks of the income distribution, and contributing to economic inequality. These are among the findings of Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences, a report released from the Council on Casinos in September 2013, an independent group of scholars and public policy leaders convened by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan New York City-based think tank.

    In Massachusetts, nearly every candidate for governor has latched onto the issue of unfairness and inequality, and for good reason. As the gap between rich and poor widens in the world’s richest nation, Massachusetts is among those leading the way. Over the past 20 years, America’s best-educated state has experienced the country’s second-biggest increase in income inequality, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Census data. Between 1989 and 2011, the average income of the state’s top fifth of households jumped 17 percent. The middle fifth’s income dropped 2 percent, and the bottom fifth’s fell 9 percent. Massachusetts now has one of the widest chasms between rich and poor in America. It is the seventh-most unequal of the 50 states, according to a Reuters ranking of income inequality. Two decades ago, it ranked 23rd.

    While many state leaders, including nearly all the candidates for statewide office, say that they are committed to fighting unfairness and inequality, their policy of sponsoring casinos is actually intensifying the very unfairness and inequality that they decry.

    Any public revenues that come from casinos are revenues that produce inequality. Casino jobs are jobs that produce inequality. The amicus brief filed by Stop Predatory Gambling with the MA SJC focuses entirely on the independent evidence (i.e. studies not funded by casino interests) about how government sponsorship of casinos contributes to inequality. You can read it here.

    A vote against casinos is a vote for fairness and equality. A vote for casinos is a vote for unfairness and inequality.

    And for anyone considering whether the Massachusetts Lottery and its $30 scratch tickets contributes to inequality, the answer is a resounding and shameful yes. There is not even debate among scholars.

    Les Bernal

  6. Great post David

    I do think the casino issue isn’t just about casinos. It speaks to candidate’s deeper economic values. Raising revenue, as David points out, increasingly regressively speaks to how candidates see the government’s role. Is it to uplift the lower income residents or find creative ways to prey on them?

    While Senator Warren hasn’t gotten involved here (probably correctly, it’s not really the role of a Senator), she was asked “Do casinos make good economic economic sense for Massachusetts?”. Her answer was simply “No.” This speaks to her basic set of values, not a complicated political calculation.

    (video here, her answer is at the end)

  7. I've really helped the Grossman campaign today

    I’m sure the Thank You note is on its way. :)

    Anyway … I began this by saying I’m disappointed with Steve on casinos, and then I got a few replies saying, in effect, “But Jim! Casinos!” So I don’t know how to answer those.

    Re: public service, Steve Grossman heads (or headed?) a successful company. HE COULD COMPLETELY IGNORE POLITICS, but he doesn’t, and he has supported the Democratic Party (yes, that matters, to me) and progressive causes for his entire adult life. Loyalty, my friends, loyalty. We need more of it in politics.

    I welcome Mr. Berwick and the others to the race, good luck to them, and I’m with the nominee in the fall. Peace out.

    • My last take

      We sorta ganged up on you, but I still haven’t heard from you why Berwick is less qualified on the issues or on his record. Secondly, we say “But Jim! Casinos!” because you haven’t provided sufficient reason for your support of Grossman in spite of a glaring area of disagreement.

      But actually I’ll totally agree that Steve is the rare pro-worker CEO. He ran his company well, he gave back to his community, and he has supported liberal causes his entire life. I honestly don’t mind that he is chummy with the Clinton’s, Kennedy’s, or that he led AIPAC back when it was a reputable bipartisan organization supporting the peace process. I actually like his goals and agenda, I just happen to like Berwick more.

      • Insufficient reasons

        In other words, I haven’t convinced you? I don’t really expect to sway committed activists, I just wanted (nay, was prompted) to state my own case.

        • Not a committed activist in the slightest

          My biggest contribution to MA politics from Chicago is posting on this blog, though of course I have been feverishly trying to secure a position in public policy back here for almost a year now.

          I’m honestly just a voter in this one, and maybe not even that if I can’t move back in time. I am saying I don’t think you offered substantial reasons for Grossman, other than he is a good Democrat and more electable than Berwick in your estimation. What issues or experience sets him apart?

    • That company Grossman ran was a family business

      He didn’t build it from scratch. Loyalty is a virtue best reserved for marriage, not politics.

      • Nor did I argue

        … that he built it.

        • You kinda left it vague about "heading a successful company"

          It’s not like he started in the mail room and worked his way up. It doesn’t make him a bad person either, just being clear how he got to head the company.

          If you look at Berwick’s Wikipedia page, he is a pediatrician, co-founded IHI, professor at Harvard Medical, consults for MGH. I’m sure he can handle DeLeo.

  8. Would you vote for Deval Patrick?

    I think that’s a good example of why you can’t choose a single issue to define a candidate. You have to take everything in, not just a single issue and use that to judge everything else. I think you would be doing a disservice to yourself if you take that route.

    • My guess:

      if Deval had had our current casino bill as part of his 2006 platform, we’d have had Governor Reilly. Just sayin’.

      • what if the casino law is in the books ...

        and he’s fine with the repeal ballot question, but doesn’t come out and specifically say he’s against the existing casino bill. Hmmmm, I think Reilly is still cashing his checks at his law firm.

  9. I don't like casinos

    But I’m frankly appalled that this issue, which I don’t think is anywhere as important as most of you seem to, is sucking all the air out of the conversation. There are any number of things that might seem like a lousy quick-fix for revenue. Take naming rights for T stations or roads. I thought that was an awful idea, for many reasons. But I’d never make someone’s position on that my one and only litmus test for higher offices.

    I agree that the casino industry is corrupt and predatory. But I get a little tired of hearing how having casinos amounts to regressive taxation. Nobody forces anyone to go to a casino.

    • Well,

      that’s not really a great analogy. Naming rights for the T etc. may or may not be bad ideas for various reasons, but they don’t hurt people.

      • Also, if you really believe this - "I agree that the casino industry is corrupt and predatory"

        - then wouldn’t you see inviting that industry into our state as a pretty important data point?

      • They do hurt people

        because they undermine the very idea of a public sphere funded by tax dollars. For that reason I consider them about as pernicious an idea as I’ve heard. Casinos hurt people who go to casinos. Those people have agency.

        I’ve got family in New Jersey and even lived there for a (mercifully short) while. I think it’s clear casinos did nothing good for Atlantic City. For that reason I was opposed to the casino bill here and believe it a blemish on Deval Patrick’s record. I also see that life went on mostly unchanged for 96% of New Jersey.

        I also lived in Maryland very briefly, where they have six or seven casinos now. Martin O’Malley pushed for the newest, which is two minutes from the DC line on the Potomac. I don’t see anyone there making the fuss we’re making here, and I don’t see that Massachusetts, pre-casinos, is doing any better than Maryland on issues like wealth inequality. So I see the casino issue as one “data point” among many. Frankly, there are dozens of predatory industries in today’s America.

        • Well, we will have to disagree on this.

          It’s a nice philosophical point to be concerned about the “idea of a public sphere funded by tax dollars” being undermined by suffering the indignity of getting off at the Fidelity Park Street Red Line stop. But (a) there are a lot of well-documented, real-world stories of actual people being actually harmed by casinos (yes, gamblers have “agency,” but are you making the case that gambling addiction isn’t real?), and (b) there’s lots of documentation that casinos hurt a lot more than the people who walk onto the gambling floor. Property values, crime, bankruptcies – these all have wide ripple effects.

          • That proves too much

            First I’ll say that I hope your work is successful in getting the question to the voters. If it is I’ll vote to repeal the casino deal, because all of the points you raise are real. If I’m asked, on balance I’d rather not see casinos here.

            But I’m not as passionate about it as some people. The gambling addiction argument could just as easily be used to justify prohibition of alcohol. Alcohol addiction is very real and alcohol taxes a decent source of state revenue. One might argue that, as shown by the 1920s, the evils of prohibition are worse than the evils of alcohol being available. And one might argue that the same is not true of casinos. But I’m not opposed to prohibition of alcohol solely on that kind of utilitarian theory. At some point people need to be left to make their own decisions.

            On the “Fidelity Park Street Red Line stop,” I’d suggest that it’s so dangerous precisely because the harm seems abstract. These kind of sponsorships would fortify the idea that the only “practical” solution to underfunding the public sector is to go hat in hand to some corporation, so it can get cheap publicity and cement in people’s mind that society depends upon its munificence. We won’t know what we had until it’s gone. We’ve had public schools funded by taxes in Massachusetts for 370 years. The entire idea is under assault so much that I wonder if Boston will even have truly public schools in 50 years.

            • interesting ...

              I could go see a middle school play and my local town’s Bain Capital Auditorium.

            • Prohibition analogy is bogus

              People were drinking alcohol since Colonial days. Prohibition unnaturally attempted to stop that with rather unsurprising results. The same argument does not really translate to casinos. We have done quite well without casinos to date, so I don’t see how you can make any kind of sane argument that failing to introduce casinos at this point is going to bring about any kind of calamity.

              And this isn’t just about letting people do what they want to do. It is about giving exclusive monopolistic licenses to private companies to remove as much cash from MA citizens as they can get away with in return for a small cut of the action. It is basically a huge handout to whichever companies are “lucky” enough to get chosen to build one of the casinos.

              • Flawed but not bogus

                Two things people love to do. No one disputes that the casino, if built, will be really popular.

                • Yes indeed bogus

                  First, it is not at all clear how popular the casinos will be. In fact, you can pretty much bet that they won’t generate as much revenue as the developers claim they will. And with casinos in neighboring states not doing as well as they used to, it does seem that there is an upper limit to the number of people who are willing to spend their time and money that way.

                  But as I said, not building casinos is in no way like imposing prohibition. Now maybe if we already had casinos on every corner and we were trying to close them the analogy might be valid, but that is not the case.

              • Gambling's not new either

                It’s been around in some form or another since at least Colonial days, even if we didn’t have casinos right here in Massachusetts. My point was not that, though: it’s that we allow things to which people might become addicted, even though that leads to negative consequences.

                Your other points (monopoly, etc.) are valid, but you don’t have to sell me. I don’t believe failing to introduce casinos would bring about any kind of calamity. In fact, I’ve already said I don’t like the casino deal and would vote to repeal it. If we never have a casino here I’ll be fine with it. I dispute only the premise of the diary: that casinos should be the big issue in this year’s Democratic primaries and that a candidate’s position on casino’s should be, by itself, determinative.

                • Indeed

                  And no one is calling for a blanket prohibition on casual gambling or even to stop the lottery games or scratch tickets despite the fact that the latter in particular feeds into addictive behavior.

                  I understand your position, but let’s put it this way. How many utterly brain dead positions are you going to tolerate from someone you are going to support in a Primary election? I won’t tolerate any. I am sure I will vote for whatever Democrat is on the ballot in the general election, but I am sure not going to waste my time and money on a campaign for someone who doesn’t get it.

                • Analogies are always risky ... that said,

                  here’s another one. Of course, you’re right that gambling has been around pretty much as long as humans have. But slot machines are different – they are technological marvels designed to take people’s money. No casino would consider opening without them – table games don’t bring in close to the money needed to sustain their operation.

                  So the right analogy isn’t Prohibition – alcoholic drinks haven’t changed much in a long time. It’s more like these crazily-addictive, very dangerous opiates that seem to be flooding the market these days. (And yes, I think those drugs are more dangerous than slot machines. It’s just an analogy, and therefore imperfect.) We can argue about whether all drugs should be legalized; certainly, though, the case for legalization is weaker for those drugs than it is for alcohol.

                  Finally, I think you’re misstating my premise a bit. I’m not exactly saying that casinos should be the big issue; I’m saying that they will be the big issue (if the question makes the ballot). I am also saying that I’m OK with that, for the reasons already stated. And I have never said that a candidate’s position on casinos should alone be determinative. I do, however, think it’s important, and I also observe that it can be difficult to find big issues that separate the Dems in the primary.

                  • If it makes the ballot question ....

                    is there any candidate in any major race which has stated that they would go against the will of the people?

                    I’m not sure I’ve heard that from anyone. So I don’t see it as an issue.

                    I think it’s an easy out for any candidate, all they will say is that it’s a ballot question and I’ll support the results. Done.

                  • Again

                    My uncle’s pretty much broke, but he’s never lost the little money he does make to slot machines because he doesn’t go to casinos. I’m sorry for people who are suckered into these places, and I’d like to see those who have a genuine problem get help. All things being equal, I’d prefer not to see the casinos here.

                    Point taken on whether casinos “should” be the big issue or just “will” be. For me, they just shouldn’t be. As you know better than anyone, there’s a solid chance we’re going to have a ballot question on casino repeal. If the voters repeal, that solves the problem. I doubt the leg would dream of passing a new casino law if the voters reject the current law at the ballot. If the voters vote to keep the casino law, or the question doesn’t reach the ballot, I don’t see the legislature repealing the law no matter who’s governor. For that alone, I don’t see why this is such a big issue in the governor’s race, let alone the AG race.

                    You – David – haven’t said it should be determinative, but Kevin did quite clearly. That stance would rule out Deval Patrick. Had the governor run for a third term, would he really be in that much trouble in the primary?

                    • Re Deval's third term,

                      no, he probably wouldn’t have any trouble in a primary. But as I said upthread, I do think that if he had run on bringing casinos to MA in 2006, I think we’d have had a very different primary that year.

                      Also, if the ballot question makes the ballot and passes, it will be fascinating to see what the legislature does. I’m not as confident as you are that they won’t take some action that would keep the issue alive somehow. Hopefully, we’ll see.

                    • I don't think anyone

                      is running this year “on” bringing casinos. Except for Berwick, they don’t mention it much at al. They just vary in their ardor for undoing what the legislature and governor already have done.

                      I might be wrong, but I think there’d be hell to pay if the voters repeal and the leg tries to vote for casinos again. Particulary if the vote’s decisive.

          • I would add

            that all of the “revenue” is likely to prove ephemeral.

            1. There is a certain portion of the population that will go to casinos regularly.

            2. There is a certain portion of that casino-going population that will be addicted.

            3. Both of these populations are necessary– especially the second– to sustain a profitable casino.

            4. It does not seem at all clear to me that there is some great untapped pool of the above two populations, that remain untapped because the 1 hour bus ride to Mohegan Sun is just too long.

            5. Therefore, every time you add another one of these things, you are just dividing up the pie a little more.

            The biggie in the northeast, Foxwoods, has been unable to pay its debts for most of the recession. Twin Rivers in RI has had similar issues. But if we throw some more on the pile in MA, here they will make money!

            So, my expectation is that there is all cost–social and economic– and that the revenue gains will be fleeting. We will wind up with several of these things, each producing a significant number of low/minimum wage jobs, inflicting the known social costs, and not really making a great deal of money. A few years in, after the initial wave of enthusiasm dies off, there will come “Well, we need a huge tax break, otherwise we will have to lay off all of these people in the low/minimum wage jobs.” And then will come the tax break, so that there is all cost, and no benefit.

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