Thursday, April 15, 2010

Casino Gambling in the Bay State

So there it was this morning. The Globe headline proclaiming that the legislature has overwhelmingly approved a plan for two casinos to come to Massachusetts.

Even though I don't like gambling, and therefore don't do it, I'll admit that there are multiple sides to all this. If a resort can be built up to become a legitimate entertainment hub (i.e. Mohegan Sun with a WNBA team, big-ticket concerts, conventions, etc.) I can see the upside. I also *get* the idea that Mass. residents cross state lines to gamble all the time, and throw plenty of good money down someone else's drain by doing it.

But what worries me about that argument is that by placing casino gambling much closer, you're just making it a lot easier for those people to throw that money away. And yes, I'll reference my earlier posts about fuzzy accounting here -- if you are a habitual blackjack player at Foxwoods, and you really think you're *up* on the ledger sheet, I have a bridge I can sell you. (And yes, that means I've got a lot of bridges to sell, because I'm still waiting to meet the repeat gambler who is down).

If it's done right, casinos could bring a lot of spillover revenue from the entertainment and services that could spring up alongside them. But my hunch is that the overall cost to society in terms of bankruptcies, family dissolutions, crimes, and substance abuse all fueled by the impact of nearby casinos is going to outweigh whatever good comes in.


kad barma said...

Casinos are not like other businesses, in that they create no wealth--they only redistribute it. (Which is a polite way of saying they only take money out of other people's pockets). There may be some argument that they provide entertainment in return for this de facto theft, but I would say there is a world of difference between a wealth-producing business that actually creates something of value, and one that simply moves money from one pocket to another.

If a fraction of the energy spent accommodating casino owners were spent on attracting legitimate business to the state, we'd all be much better off.

DConnell said...

If you need a reference point for the problems casino economics pose, look no further than southern New Jersey. Atlantic City is the perfect example of what casinos can bring - pawn shops, strip clubs and liquor stores. Don't get me wrong, I've played a couple hands of blackjack in my day - but I hold no illusions about the overall plus/minus relationship these enterprises represent in the broader social context. Wander off the strip if you need further evidence of this problem. Casinos mean more revenue from property taxes and the like, but they fail to play to the better angels of our nature, dragging down the communities that serve as hosts for the benefit of the remaining tax payers... and making them, in my estimation, a losing proposition.

Renee said...

Note of interest on how things work at Beacon Hill

"Profile in cowardice
April 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm

CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas considers the sad case of state Rep. Ellen Story, an Amherst Democrat who candidly admits she reversed her longstanding opposition to casino gambling in order to please House Speaker Robert DeLeo."

The New Englander said...

Thanks for adding those examples --I will definitely check them out.

I'll admit there are multiple sides to this, and there are places like Mohegan Sun that have WNBA and big-ticket concerts, but on balance I'm with all you guys on this -- more is being *taken* than is being *given* when you add casinos to an area.