Former Mass. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger has harshly criticized the prospect of bringing slot machines to the state’s racetracks. In a statement released to Blue Mass. Group, Harshbarger said:
I personally view [racinos] as a more serious immediate threat than casinos, and as a “gateway drug,” if you will, that lays the foundation and case for escalation — and strengthens the Native American claim as well.
Harshbarger emphasized the particular harm that slots at the racetracks, as opposed to a destination casino, will almost certainly cause:
[I]t is particularly negative because it draws only on local discretionary income — thereby hurting local businesses and other discretionary options — as opposed to attracting any “destination resort” income from outside the state.
Harshbarger added that once slot machines are up and running in Massachusetts, it is only a matter of time before expanded gambling takes hold.
It allows the casino/slots armada to gear up again, mobilize (and pay the lobbyists) to run roughshod through the legislature — and we better hope the ethics bills pass, or we will be awash in another corruption/lobbying scandal fiasco! … [T]here is no possible “exit” or “sunset” strategy once we begin.
Harshbarger expressed his deep disappointment with Governor Patrick, whom he had strongly supported in the 2006 Governor’s race:
In this context, the comments attributed to the Governor today are, for me, very disappointing. While I clearly disagree about the economic value of expanded gambling, particularly resort casinos and slot machines/racinos, today’s comments, including “let the games begin,” seem to me to be particularly jarring and, sadly, quite cynical! After their first meeting, in the midst of a depression, with a major state fiscal crisis on our hands, trying to preserve the safety net, and hoping for the public to support a federal stimulus package to rescue us, the governor and the new speaker are featured, in their first partnership, not announcing support for the ethics reform package, not criticizing Wall Street CEO bonus excesses, and not ensuring we will have effective oversight of any stimulus dollars that do come to Massachusetts — but rather joining together to mobilize the casino and slot machine Armada as our financial rescue angel!
Is it really a major priority for our state leadership, in this crisis, to bail out race tracks and casino owners, and divert discretionary income of MA residents away from legitimate businesses, particularly small businesses, or to drain potential savings, into casinos and slot machines?
So, just to recap (this is now me talking, not Harshbarger):
- Slot machines at racetracks are essentially a bailout for failing businesses, funded in the most unfair possible manner.
- There is no guarantee that the bailout will actually work — to the contrary, casinos around the country are suffering from the recession, just like every other business. But it is pretty much guaranteed that locals who haven’t got much disposable income will pour some of it into the slots.
- As a result of locals spending disposable income on slots, other local businesses will suffer, thereby probably increasing joblessness in the area.
- Racinos would introduce Class III gaming to Massachusetts, thereby opening the door to the Wampanoags (or other tribes) to build a gigantic destination casino from which the state benefits not at all.
Great. And this is the solution to our problems because …?