The significant law enforcement, consumer protection, and public safety impacts of expanded casino gaming in Massachusetts make this a central issue for our next Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of our commonwealth.
Therefore, I believe you have a right to know exactly where I, and all the candidates for Attorney General, stand on casinos.
I’m opposed to expanded casino gaming and I support the current effort to repeal of the gaming law. I do not believe a modern economy that is focused on creating opportunities for every person can be built on gambling.
The few communities that have voted in favor of casinos are going through tough economic times and many see casinos as a much-needed boost. But evidence from across the country tells a different story. Casinos don’t lay a foundation for diverse economies, they take over. Local restaurants and entertainment venues lose patrons, other industries steer clear, personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures jump, and the costs for police and related services soar
I’ve asked people what local businesses they visited during trips to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods and the answer I get back for the most part is, “the gas station.”
Some casino supporters act as if we’ve learned nothing in the years since passage of the gaming bill but the last three years have, in fact, taught us a lot. We’ve seen several cities and towns resoundingly vote down casinos after the industry operators had a chance to make their best pitch.
All of which begs the question: Are casinos really a good idea if they’re only good enough for certain cities? I live in Charlestown and I’m opposed to a casino there. The voters of East Boston agreed and voted No on casinos in Boston. Plenty of state leaders have said the same in their hometowns. I know we can do better for everyone.
There are stronger ways to grow our economy. Infrastructure redevelopment creates construction jobs and yields long-term benefits for residents and businesses. Investments in education and job training allow our state to compete for higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs over the long term. A more progressive tax structure, raising the minimum wage, fighting for pay equity, and unionizing our workforce will all do more to support working and middle class families than casino gambling will do.
Recent studies show that casinos may even widen the income gap because gambling proceeds are regressive taxes. They disproportionately affect poorer people who have little discretionary money to lose in the first place. No one wants the government to serve as big brother and tell people how to spend their money but casinos thrive on addictive behavior – just like tobacco companies – and are designed so that people lose. Given all of the evidence about the ills of gambling, I don’t believe in waiting for problems to develop. We need proactive leadership at all levels.
If casinos are built, then the decision about who will be our next Attorney General becomes even more important. It will be the duty of the Attorney General to help protect the public from the accompanying risks, including loan sharking, predatory debt collection, drug and gambling addiction and organized crime. I know some of these challenges well from my years running the Public Protection Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office. As your next AG, I will ensure that our newly-formed Gaming Division recruits the state’s best lawyers to combat these challenges. And I believe that gaming industry should pay for the division.
I will also create a team of investigators stationed full time at the casinos to watch out for abuses just like the teams that Senator Elizabeth Warren successfully fought to put into the banks to watch out for abusive and deceptive practices.
Recently, the Attorney General declared that the current repeal petition was not valid to go to before the voters. The opinion stated that it is improper to shut down the licensing process now that several casino operators have applied. But voters made a decision to shut down the greyhound tracks with a ballot question and that was an industry that had been running for years. I am not concerned about the well-being of casino operators, I am concerned about the well-being of the residents of Massachusetts.
The final decision is up to the courts, but I believe on a matter of this magnitude, the voters should have a chance to be heard.
I also know that the worst reason to support casinos that haven’t been built is because we think we’re already stuck with them. If we have to refund the application fees, so be it.
I support repealing the gaming law and moving Massachusetts forward with smart, sustainable economic policies that help everyone.