So at the beginning of this blog I mentioned that I might throw in a post every now and then about politics and the economy and get away from personal finance topics. This is one of those posts. For those of you who hate politics, well then read other posts or stay tuned for another edition of ROB later on this week.
Anyway, I live in Massachusetts and have proudly lived here for almost a decade. Like a lot of states Massachusetts was hurt by the recession in 2007. Massachusetts residents also spend, even during the recession, about 1 billion dollars per year in casinos. Primarily at the casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island. To keep those monies in the state a few years ago Massachusetts passed a referendum authorizing three casinos and one slot parlor be built in the state. Proponents and opponents argued about benefits and costs of bringing casino gambling to MA. The referendum passed by a wide margin.
Now we have a new campaign run by the opponents of casinos in Massachusetts to overturn the wishes of citizens. It doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually being approved and casinos will be built in MA.
My concern and/or rant is about why the state of Massachusetts needs three casinos and a slot parlor. I don’t get it. To me it is stupid to think we need that much casino gambling in the state for a number of reasons.
For one, Massachusetts proponents of casino gambling cite the economic benefits and taxes it will bring. It will certainly bring jobs and it will bring an uptick in the coffers of MA, but to think that it is going to be the solution for our budget woes is stupid. It isn’t a silver bullet. Casino gambling is actually going DOWN in Connecticut and Rhode Island. All three of those casinos are laden with debt and struggling to create more business in their states. As such, tax revenue is also falling. By putting our hopes into casino gambling with three casinos we are just going to dilute the casino market even more and it tax revenue won’t be the great equalizer people hope for.
Second, casino gambling is a regressive tax on the poor. The primary people who play slots, table games, and scratch tickets are the poor. They spend inordinate amounts of money on gambling and flush their money down the toilet.
Now I am no prude. I gamble every once a while. My parents have a Native-American casino five miles from their house. They go all the time. My brother lives in Las Vegas (although he doesn’t work for the casinos). I don’t have a problem with gambling per se. If you want to lose your money go ahead. When I do it I do it on a small scale and for entertainment. I don’t expect to win big. But I have a bigger problem with the scale of gambling in Massachusetts that supposedly will help solve our budgetary woes and lead to greater employment. Gambling is fine, but I have an ethical problem with solving economic issues on the backs of the those who can least afford it, particularly when the income inequality is at an all time high.
Finally, I just don’t think the New England area can support all of these casinos. I mean gambling revenues are already going down in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Tax revenue is going down. Just adding three more casinos and a slot parlor is just going to dilute the market more. To me it just doesn’t make economic sense.
I am not going to be voting to repeal casino gambling in Massachusetts. I don’t have a problem with one casino. If you want to gamble and lose money that is fine. That is your choice. But it isn’t a silver bullet. It isn’t going to bring the kind of tax revenue, jobs, and economic benefits that the proponents think it will. I grew up in a state with at least 7 Native-American casinos and a race track and that state has a smaller population than Massachusetts. Several of those casinos are struggling. They haven’t brought the economic benefits to Native Americans like many thought it would. Gamble if you want to, but the economic benefits are not the magic bullet that the state and regional economy needs.