So says the growing chorus of opposition to what I call Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to expand gambling addiction in Massachusetts. Although as a candidate he opposed casino gambling, Patrick has made casino gambling the centerpiece of his economic program. This has come as a surprise to those of us who supported him from early on.
The Boston Globe reports that while the governor’s support for his own program has been “tepid,” a far-flung network of opponents from the Massachusetts Council of Churches to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association is mobilizing against it. Restauranteurs are rightfully concerned that massive “resort casinos” will undermine existing businesses:
Over the past several years there has been a well-funded effort to expand gaming in the Commonwealth. Proposals to allow thousands of slot machines at the state’s racetracks have been unsuccessful thus far. There are important economic risks that could result from expanding gaming, in addition to the well-documented social costs.
The MRA opposes all efforts to expand gaming and allow slot machines at racetracks.
* The restaurant industry is vital to the state’s economy and our success is directly correlated to people’s discretionary income. The expansion of gaming would divert much of that discretionary income out of the economy,the same income that is presently used for dining out.
* The huge revenues that would be created by slot machines would allow these establishments to attract customers away from our businesses with their free or subsidized food, beverages, and entertainment.
* The restaurant industry is vital to the state’s economy. We employ over 9% of the Massachusetts workforce and contributed over $591 million in sales tax on meals last year. Expanded gaming would put this very important economic engine at great peril.
* Our industry is currently being challenged by the economy. Today, operators are facing huge increases in the cost of doing business. Some of these factors include healthcare, energy, and the overall vulnerability in the commodities market.
Restaurants are good neighbors and are owned by many people who have invested in their communities. The livelihoods of many are dependent upon the success of these small businesses. To shift the income of a few businesses (racetracks) would be benefiting a few at the expense of many.
Meanwhile, a pro-gambling addiction state legislator plans to stage a procasino hearing featuring… (drum roll please) — the gambling industry!
The Springfield Republican reports:
BOSTON – Hoping to create some momentum, a pro-casino legislator plans to hold a hearing on Beacon Hill that will emphasize the economic benefits of expanded gambling.
State Rep. David L. Flynn, D-Bridgewater, said he invited representatives of some gambling companies including Harrah’s Entertainment of Las Vegas and owners of the state’s four horse and dog tracks.
“We had the anti-gaming hearing, the can’t-do hearing,” said Flynn, co-chairman of the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “This is a can-do hearing.”
Oh yeah. And top officials of the Patrick administration will be there too.