The casino industry has spent $250 million dollars on lobbying over the past decade in the pursuit of personal gain rather than the public good. That special and narrow interest has been heard. Now, we, as citizens, need to be heard. And our concerns need to be heeded. Before we take the grave step of introducing casino gambling to Massachusetts, we must undertake a cost/benefit analysis for our state and educate our neighbors about the grave costs of introducing casino gambling.
But that cost/benefit analysis cannot simply be measured in economic costs alone. We must also consider what we value as a community. While we must commit ourselves to creating jobs and while monetary costs and benefits must be measured, we must not lose sight of what we treasure most in life. We must ask ourselves if casino gambling is worth it even at the expense of those among us who are most vulnerable. We must ask ourselves if casino low wage jobs are worth witnessing the lives of our neighbors destroyed by gambling addiction. We must ask ourselves what will casino gambling cost to our state pride. Do we want to raise our children in a state with casinos? How will casino gambling compromise Massachusetts as a beacon of hope and inspiration around the world? And why when Massachusetts has such a rich tradition of innovation do we need to desperately reach for a perceived quick fix that will cost us both immediately and so dearly down the road?
Through City Year and Be the Change, Inc., I’ve worked in our neighborhoods and communities for over twenty years. I know people are hurting. Too many of us have lost our jobs, homes, retirement savings and our children’s dream of a college education. We need jobs. And while casino gambling sounds enticing and has been presented as a quick fix, it’s not the answer for Massachusetts. We need to get back to basics: invest in good, high paying jobs, improve U.S. productivity, increase savings, reduce debt, strengthen families, educate our children, and invent more products and services to export.
Massachusetts gave birth to the very idea of America. People come here from all over the world to walk our Freedom Trail, view the USS Constitution, visit the site of the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord. People are drawn to our world-renowned universities, our hospitals, and our clean energy and biotech startups.
Massachusetts is the birthplace of public education, the abolitionist movement, the suffragist movement, and so many innovations including the first telephone call, first typewriter, first computer, first subway, first liquid fuel rocket and first World Series champions.
Once we introduce casinos, there’s no turning back. We will no longer be solely the state that gave birth to our nation and our country’s capital of innovation. We will also be a casino gambling destination.
In this time of economic struggle, we must work to create secure, well paying jobs that respect our citizens and take advantage of our leadership in the healthcare, biotech, clean energy industries, and higher education, and not low paying jobs that have a negative impact on our social welfare. Casino workers are among the worst-paid in the U.S., with the median, hourly wage for casino workers at $6.34. Every dollar invested in casinos costs taxpayers $3 to cover the costs of the social problems associated with casinos in the local community. Among those who live within 50 miles of a casino, more than 1 out of 20 people become a gambling addict. In areas with casinos, crime increases by 10% and personal bankruptcies jump 18%-42%. Gambling does not pump-prime the economy. Instead, gambling siphons money away from the traditional consumer economy, where an economic “multiplier effect” triples the value of every dollar spent by creating jobs that supply goods and services.
We can, instead, create jobs by supporting small business, our greatest source of job creation. We can create new jobs by implementing a new job hiring tax credit. We can allow small businesses to have $50,000 write offs. We can waive SBA fees and allow 50% depreciation in the first year of new plants and equipment. We must also fully fund the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which will create 250,000 new jobs, helping to educate our children, conserve the environment, support and engage our veterans, promote public health and fight poverty.
I believe it is the responsibility of government to protect citizens from practices that threaten public health and safety. If I have the privilege of serving as Senator, I will propose the creation of a National Gambling Regulatory Commission. Casino gambling raises important federal issues of public safety, public health and consumer protection. We must avoid a race to the bottom whereby because Connecticut has casinos, Massachusetts gets casinos, then New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont will want them.
We are Americans. In tough times, we don’t compromise who we are to meet our greatest challenges. We draw strength from who we are to forge progress. This is Massachusetts. We don’t need to trade an increase in social ills for low paying jobs. We have proven throughout our history that anything is possible. We can innovate and invent and create jobs, further our values and dreams, and write the next great chapter for our state, the birthplace of American democracy.
I urge the Legislature to reject casino gambling in Massachusetts. And I urge all citizens of our Commonwealth who share my grave concerns about how casinos will change our state forever to join a growing citizens movement – the United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts Campaign – by logging on to www.uss-mass.org. Together we can make our voices heard and preserve our states storied heritage for our children and grandchildren.
I greatly appreciate your review of my testimony.
NOTE: Click here to sign our petition. Say NO to casinos in MA: http://www.alanforsenate.com/p…