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Why Massachusetts casinos are a bad idea

The state legislature will here testimony today on several proposals to build casinos in Massachusetts.  The likely sites for the proposed casinos will be Palmer, Milford, and Auburn.

I believe that these proposals should all be voted down.  Those wishing to build casinos claim that casinos will bring jobs, tourism, and economic growth.  They also emphasize their potential to cover the current Massachusetts budget shortfall through the heavy taxes that are usually levied on casino's huge profits.  However, these benefits are both exaggerated and overshadowed by the massive costs to all Massachusetts residents.

Practically, this is the worst time to build casinos.  Atlantic City has recently reported a 19.8% loss in profits, while the Las Vegas strip has reported 57.3% drop in profits.  Even Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have experienced declining profits of late. 

New casinos in Massachusetts would likely also experience these reduced profits.  Less profits means less revenues for the state, which essentially debunks the primary argument for the casinos in the first place. 

Meanwhile, it is important to note that the revenue that the state would earn from casinos doesn't appear magically; it has to come from somewhere.  In fact, state casino revenue constitutes a tax that is more regressive than the sales tax, because 60% of casino revenues come from people making less than $25,000 per year.

Of course supporters will continue to point to the economic development, jobs, and tourist revenue that the casinos will bring to the local areas.  However, these benefits are at best half-truths and at worst outright lies.

It turns out in fact that while casinos sometimes result in some initial economic growth, over time their tendency to out compete local businesses and thus bankrupt them, results in no long term net gain in economic growth, while destroying the defining characteristics of the area.

With local businesses closing, job growth would also at best remain stagnant, while job choice would decline.  With the casino offering the only jobs in town, it become a monopsony in the labor market, driving down wages, benefits, and quality of work for those forced to work there.

The attraction of tourist revenue is perhaps the most ridiculous claim made by casino advocates.  Patrons of resort casinos rarely spend any money outside of the casino as food, shelter, alcohol, and entertainment are all provided by the establishment.  In addition, they often leave the casino with nothing to spend elsewhere.

While the benefits are casinos are fleeting and overblown.  The costs are overwhelming.  Crime skyrockets in the area surrounding a casino, often extending to include the entire county in which it is present.  Burglary, assault, auto theft, robbery, larceny, and rape all experience dramatic leaps in occurrence whenever a casino opens in an area.

For all these reasons, I implore my readers to contact their state representative and state senator and call on them to oppose these measures.  If a casino is built in Auburn, all nearby towns will be affected.

To those who say that the casino revenue, despite being collected unjustly and at the expense of everything we hold dear, is necessary to keep Massachusetts fiscally sound, say that they should take this recession and budget shortfall as an opportunity to weed out unnecessary spending and outright waste.  After all we are all doing the same with our personal finances.

Comments

  • Steve Norton 5 years ago

    Mr. Ashmankas has made some common errors in his portrayal of casino gaming. He mentions crime skyrocketing, but this is not because of gaming, its because of the tremendous increase in visitors and non resident employees to the area, which aren't included in the FBI Crime Statistics. Orland, with Disney, Epcot, and Universal Studios, all family attractions, has more than 3 times the violent and property crime as Atlantic City, a casino resort. Atlantic City revenues are down, because of new slots in PA and NY, which are seeing great increases in win with their new gaming facilities. Massachusetts would bring back much of the $billion being spent by MA residents in CT and RI gaming establishments. Brian is also wrong is his pronouncement that 60% of casino win comes from low income individuals, bue he may be on track, if he looks at his own State Lottery, where low income neighborhoods tend to have a higher per capita lottery
    spend. IL once had an Advertisement "Your Ticket Out"!!

  • Henry 4 years ago

    The construction deals will line many pockets. The bankers will make bigger bonuses. The senior executives will get extended contracts. The unskilled workers will flood the local school systems and hot cot in every available rental property within two miles of the property. The inventory of businesses will change to cater to a lower paid worker. The executives will live far enough away to escape the browning of the area around the casino. If anyone doubts this take a trip to Atlantic city or uncasville. Oh, did I mention that the local elected officials will get rich and be able to use revenues to fund more vote getting jobs.

  • Dan-BYDE 4 years ago

    Brian-

    Foxwoods and Mohegan had fairly similar profits in '08 as in years past from the information I had found a few weeks ago while researching casinos for an outside project, but perhaps my source was mistaken.

    However, even looking at your own, they are still astounding, and would bring in plenty of tax dollars. There is no doubt that casinos are regressive, however when everyone fights against raising the income tax on higher income brackets (typically unknowingly against an individual's own self-interest), the state is left few options- such as the sales tax increase (a complete failure IMO) and finally bringing casinos. I see no problem with bringing casinos, so long as those revenues are sent to education, fighting crime, and fighting gambling addictions. Those three, especially increased funding to all types of education, would help make casinos great revenue generators with lower impacts than you predict.

    Good luck weeding out unnecessary spending, no politician will

  • Dan-BYDE 4 years ago

    as each program somehow reaches their constituents in a meaningful way, and seeing as how re-election is what they care about, cutting those programs won't happen. Instead they cut areas that have "alternative revenue sources" like higher education (because we all know students and their families are loaded with cash and all).

  • Frances 4 years ago

    My issue with the article is that you state profits are from those making less than $25,000. That is probably true, but should we continue to send those profits to Connecticut instead of keeping them here in Massachusetts. From my observations of people in Massachusetts, I see that we are very into gambling--lottery and trips to Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun prove this.