Today’s news on the casino front is that Massachusetts’ most popular politician, Elizabeth Warren, will vote to repeal the casino law in November. The Herald (but not the Globe, for some reason) has the story:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she will vote to repeal the state’s casino law when the hotly debated question goes to the ballot in November.
“I come to the question of gambling from a background in bankruptcy and what happens economically to families,” the Cambridge Democrat told reporters yesterday. “It’s a tough call here. People need jobs, but gambling can be a real problem economically for a lot of people. I didn’t support gambling the first time around and I don’t expect to support it (now).”
Of course, this is awesome news for the pro-repeal forces. And it comes on the heels of several days of terrible stories regarding the casino industry as a whole.
In particular, if you have looked at the news at all over the last few days, you cannot have missed the numerous stories coming out of Atlantic City, NJ. Basically, the casino industry there is in something close to freefall. The two-year-old ultra-glitzy Revel casino is closing tomorrow. The Showboat, which had been there for decades, closed on Sunday. And in a couple of weeks, Trump Plaza is set to shut down. Thousands of casino employees are losing their jobs, and it’s unclear where those people are going to go.
Obviously, it’s impossible not to connect the dots from Atlantic City to our own ongoing experiment with casinos. Globe:
The contraction and painful layoffs in New Jersey — amid disappointing revenues in the casino industry elsewhere in the United States — come at an inauspicious time for casino supporters in Massachusetts, a little more than two months before voters will decide whether to repeal the state’s casino law in a ballot referendum.
Naturally, the pro-casino crowd insist that Massachusetts is totally different and all the terrible news coming out of Atlantic City (as well as Mississippi and other casino havens) has nothing to do with building three and a half casinos here.
The industry’s supporters argue that Massachusetts’ casino marketplace would be a much different animal — a maximum of four facilities, not a dozen. With more than 6.5 million residents, the Bay State has enough potential customers to support up to three resort casinos and a slot parlor scattered around the state, as called for in the 2011 expanded gambling act, supporters say.
“All four facilities can do very well and you would not have a supply-and-demand imbalance,” said Jay Snowden, chief operating officer of Penn National Gaming, the company building the state’s slot parlor in Plainville.
But more sensible minds have a different view.
the state [of MA] is not immune to the same competitive pressures that are squeezing Atlantic City, specialists say.
Competition has shrunk casino markets, and new jurisdictions should look soberly on how much tax revenue casinos can produce, said Israel Posner, an expert on Atlantic City and director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey…. Other casino jurisdictions are also suffering in the face of competition, and less interest in gambling among younger people, said Posner. Ohio’s casino profits, for example, have not lived up to projections. Closer to home, the Connecticut tribal casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, have seen declining gambling revenue.
Needless to say, taking a “sober” view of “how much tax revenue casinos can produce” has not exactly been the Massachusetts legislature’s forte. Even before the casino industry started collapsing around the country, the revenue projections from local proponents were derided as wildly unrealistic. Yet the legislature happily built projected revenues into the state budget, with no evident backup plan should those revenues fail to materialize.
Anyway, since I will be voting to repeal the casino law, I’m happy that Elizabeth Warren is publicly on board. We can certainly anticipate that the pro-repeal forces will continue using her name in advancing their cause.