Speaker DeLeo Announces Gaming Plan

Speaker DeLeo announced today his plan for gaming in the Commonwealth — essentially two resort casinos and slots at the race tracks with the revenues spread to multiple goals and constituencies. The speaker’s messaging on the bill is primarily focused on the employment benefits.

Click here for his press release; click here for a summary of the bill. The full text of the legislation may be reviewed at this link and a section-by-section analysis appears at this link.

My views on the casino issues have not changed since my vote in the last session against resort casinos. I am deeply concerned about unemployment in Massachusetts, but I don’t believe that it is a short term problem — we face a long term economic squeeze caused by automation and Asian competition. Casinos will give us a short run economic bump, but will destroy many other good businesses in downtown areas and leave us with a long run legacy of crime, corruption, addiction and environmental damage. I believe that casinos are a huge distraction from the challenge of building a prosperous, sustainable future. For a fuller explanation of my views, see this link.

I am firmly committed to voting against this proposal, but I welcome differing perspectives on this site and especially appreciate thoughts about how to vote on amendments that may be offered to the bill.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

14 replies on “Speaker DeLeo Announces Gaming Plan”

  1. Here, here! I completely agree with you that the short term economic bump of some construction and service jobs will be more than outweighed by the economic impact of gambling on families, the environmental damage done to rural areas where these resorts tend to be built, and that much of the revenue will end up going to out-of-state casino operators.

  2. I completely agree with you. Casinos are a bad idea. Doesn’t Speaker DeLeo know that the only real winner is the “House,” the casino industry? As for amendments, require the casino companies post bonds to cover the additional costs of crime, addiction, etc. that they generate.

  3. You are absolutely right, Will. Casinos have short term benefits, but in the long run, they destroy locally-owned diners and local entertainment venues. Worst of all, the business plan of casinos is to turn middle-class people into poor people.

    Speaker DeLeo may see a few of his district’s constituents benefit by this, but a Speaker has duties beyond his district and this bill is bad for all of Massachusetts.

    1. Will, I too support your position entirely.

      Being a fiscal conservative (which I am) doesn’t mean favoring a highly regressive tax. I also agree with the earlier posts about the undesirable social impact of organized gaming, and its high (not 1.00) correlation with organized crime. As an instrument for raising revenues, this fails on every sensible criteria – except cynical political calculations. Whether one things state government should be reorganized and spending cut (as I do) or additional revenues raised (as you do), we can agree that this is a genuinely bad idea.

  4. I don’t know if I am quite as dead-set in my views, but I completely agree with your reasoning.

    In the grand hierarchy of things to avoid, for a given unit of social damage, casinos employ slightly more people than slot machines and other automated money-suckers, so they are not “quite so bad”. But this logic is more about not winning the race to the bottom, as opposed to staying out of it in the first place.

    I’m curious what you think might be best for growing the Massachusetts economy. I keep coming up with “transit”, but I don’t really know if that’s the answer. I’m comparing to 7 years living in California, where the general rule (then) was “you’ll find a job”, and the game was mostly to find one that wasn’t too horribly far away. Around here, Belmont is pretty well placed for that (good access to Burlington, Waltham, Cambridge, Boston) but that’s not true of every place, and traffic is often horrible. The more communities that can say “we have good access to jobs”, the better, because the flip side is that employers can hire more easily.

    Back when my employer (Sun) was up for sale, many of us were worried that if IBM bought us, they would move everything out to Boxboro, which is a car-only commute, and long (this is actually a pattern with IBM — their Silicon Valley offices are far south in San Jose, their New York offices are scattered north in Westchester County).

    1. Thanks, David.

      There are a whole host of things we are doing to create construction jobs — the investment in insulation retrofits through the utilities is roughly $750 million per year and there is both state and federal funding for infrastructure, much of which does go to transit. But it is clearly not enough — lots of construction workers are out of work.

      The conversation about how, in the long term, to foster economic development is a central one. Everyone is focused on it — not just those in the public sector, but even more importantly those in the private sector. Most jobs have to be created in the private sector. Government has to listen closely to what the private sector indicates will help make business flourish. That doesn’t mean hand outs, like the film tax credit, but it does mean thinking carefully about demands for workforce training, transportation, the overall level of business taxation, regulation, etc.

  5. Will, I agree that casinos are a bad idea for the commonwealth. Coming from Louisiana, I’ve heard this siren song about how we need the jobs and the casinos will help the state coffers. It didn’t help there and it won’t help here. Let’s find the money some other way, Mass is better than casinos.

  6. Bravo again, Will. What a dreadful idea for all the reasons mentioned above. And this may take away from the lottery for that portion of the population who gamble may prefer the hands on excitement of a casino to a scratch card. This is usually the population that can least afford the loss, as well. The jobs in construction are temporary, the impact on the surroundings permanent and whatever service jobs provided low level and not very rewarding. The Casino and slots owners win, not the state. This is another example of short term thinking for revenue with long term negative consequences. Hang in there!!

  7. I take a realist view on the subject. While I do not gamble. Many people I know do. It is not very smart for the Commonwealth to ignore the fact that our neighbors in Road Island, Connecticut and Maine are using gambling to reduce their tax burden by convincing out of staters mostly from here to gamble there as well as there own citizens who gamble. Many Many people in Mass gamble, more than the national average.

    I do not believe that government should prohibit behavior that is mostly self destructive by individuals, which is what a gambling ban does. I also believe the same thing concerning recreational drugs but that is an different discussion. We live in a free society, and if the USA does anything it allows our citizens the freedom screw up their own lives. But mostly I think that prohibiting something makes it more desirable to do, because it is a forbidden fruit. I think that allowing it, taxing it heavily and working to reduce the desire for gambling will be socially more desirable than just not allowing it. Treat it like cigarettes, which are regulated and taxed heavily, now smoking rates are going down.

  8. I fully support Mr. DeLeo’s proposal. The key issue is one of individual liberty and respect for the freedom of others. Adults in a free society should be allowed to choose how they spend their money and time. Most of the opposition is based on moral condemnation of slot machines and those who enjoy them. The fact is slot machines are usually enjoyed by the uneducated classes and often those on low-to-moderate income. Nonetheless, it is just entertainment and people should have a choice just like any other form of entertainment. There are many irksome forms of entertainment, just look at the rubbish on TV. If you don’t like it just turn it off. Similarly, slot machines. Nobody is going to force middle-class folks from Belmont or Arlington to go to Suffolk Downs and participate. Just let others do what they want. Currently, many travel to RI or elsewhere anyway. Why not let MA enjoy the upside of job generation and tax revenue? Why not be on the side of freedom rather than government regulation?

  9. However, this is not really an issue of an individual’s liberty to gamble. As the previous comment acknowledges, people who want to gamble already have the opportunity to do so in a variety of locations. The real issue here is whether our government shall participate in, and invest resources in, the operations of the gambling industry in order to raise revenue. In fact, to look at the issue from the opposite side of the coin (poker chip), the support of my individual liberty should protect me from being an unwilling participant in a government sponsored get-rich-quick scheme that I believe to be detrimental to the overall well being of the state.

    The gambling industry does not create long-term wealth or value, it simply redistributes existing wealth. Thus the perception of new wealth from gambling is simply the artifact of the new taxes imposed on those who have chosen to gamble. Nobody wins except the casino owners. However, the illusion of new wealth does give our legislature an excuse for backing off from the potentially painful choices required in building a stronger state economy. Rather than developing a dependency on non-sustainable revenue, our legislators should be acutely focused on strategies for building new wealth and value through the growth of sustainable industries throughout the state.

    1. I agree that this is not a civil rights issue — I am not opposed to gambling per se. But I am opposed to the organized casino/slots industry and everything that comes along with it as constitute today.

  10. Transparency has been a big problem for the Mass Legislature. Will Brownsberger is on the right side of the transparency issue, but in many ways Speaker DeLeo is not in favor of transparency. Created racinos and casinos is going to encourage a small set of millionaires & billionaires to try to influence the Legislature–we will need transparency about that!

    And Speaker DeLeo wants to skip public hearings? There’s not enough sunlight on this bill, whether one supports casinos or not. It should not be given the benefit of the doubt.

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