The Boston Globe laid out the evidence last week
The video slots allow players to gamble incredibly rapidly, winning or losing a game every several seconds without a break, to the point that their brains are undergoing the equivalent of an intravenous drip of an intoxicating drug, said Bob Breen, director of the Rhode Island Hospital Gambling Treatment Program.
Let’s be blunt: the Democratic Party — through our state reps, our senators, our Treasurer, and our Governor — want to create addictions dramatically to raise revenues. That violates our most basic principle of defending the vulnerable.
The pro-gambling faction in the Party has argued that this is OK because 1) gambling is “already taking place,” 2) it is primarily question of individual choice, or 3) we will simply recapture lost revenues. All of these arguments are either misleading or false. I would welcome a debate on this page.
First, though gambling is taking place in other states and the lottery, this would be a massive expansion of the most addictive form which would put as many as 5% of the Massachusetts population at risk of new compulsive behaviors. That’s as many as 300,000 people – if not you, then potentially your parents, your neighbors, and your kids. In any case, the argument that “two wrongs DO make a right” — i.e. that if something bad is happening somewhere else we might as well encourage more of it here — is morally and politically confused.
Second, if the the neurological studies don’t convince you that there is a problem, maybe the terms that slot machine manufacturers and casino use will give you some insight. They both work tirelessly to increase a person’s “time on device” in order to get a person to “play to extinction” (i.e. exhaust their bank accounts). Some otherwise healthy adults wear adult diapers so they don’t have to leave a “hot” machine.
Third, we would be naive to think that any state will simply relinquish their gambling revenues to us. Instead, they will work to drive down costs (i.e. wages) and increase the allure of coming to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and perhaps New Hampshire and of course Maine. Thus we will have unleashed a self-defeating arms race to the bottom.
Finally, the most dishonest argument, designed to crush the spirit of people who are inclined to object, is that the advance of predatory gambling is inexorable and “inevitable.”
They said this because it was “inevitable” that there would be an Indian casino in Middleboro – until that inevitability was crushed last month by the Supreme Court. They said it was inevitable that three casinos would come to state – cities should get in line to compete for where they will be! — until that idea was crushed in the legislature. Now they are trying this out again. Our Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is supposedly the most responsible financial person in the state, is saying that video lottery terminals (VLTs.) and slot machines are “inevitable”in Massachusetts. Maybe he believes this because of the views of Speaker DeLeo, who thinks that he can revive and support the collapsing tracks around the state by putting in machines that — without the need of workers — will be happy to withdraw money from your account as fast as you can push a button.
In fact, there is nothing inevitable about it, unless we have abandoned the concept of democracy and the principles of the party. It’s time to speak up against the Borg at the Party Platform hearing.People are raising their voices against this bad idea around the state.
At the Cambridge Somerville Platform Hearing – they took a spontaneous straw poll after three of us spoke and it was 100% opposed to slot machines and casinos as a revenue source. In North Andover the anti-slots view also won. The progressive base that elected Deval Patrick is deeply uncomfortable with his advocacy of this measure. The people who have seen lives wrecked by gambling are equally so. The people who know that many of our economic woes were caused by the same “casino capitalism” on Wall Street know that this is an unwise move.
In fact, guess where you can find page after page of financial advice about how to work hard and save your money — advice written for children, teens, and citizens who are bewildered by the complexities of finance? On the Treasurer’s own web page on Financial Education. He is advising some of us to watch our expenses and to save for the future.. But those who fall prey to the impulse of dopamine spurred by dazzling lights from 10,000 reverse ATMs? Those people he is willing to throw under the bus.
To go back to my request: I would ask people who oppose this to review this list of platform and party events and to go speak against this bad idea.
Anyone who goes and makes a passionate speech about predatory gambling — about the addictive product of slot machines — is likely to win votes. As long as the issue is stripped to its essence — that we, as a matter of party policy and state policy, are deliberately going to create addicts in order to fund a budget deficit, it is unanswerable.
As Les Bernal, one of our great national leaders against predatory gambling has said: in the Great Depression, when we were also desperate for revenues for social programs, Franklin Roosevelt could have turned to slot machines – but he didn’t.
We say that as a party we stand for his values, within his tradition.
Let’s prove it.