Poorest most easily hurt by casinos

Sometimes when you buy something, you find out later that you made a mistake.

Unfortunately for you, you still own it. The rush to open casinos, both in the commonwealth and across the border in New York, is one good example. It is not surprising that both states’ governors, anxious to provide needed revenue support and not raise taxes, are encouraging developers to open multimillion-dollar gambling casinos. The thinking is that people are going to gamble anyway and it’s better to keep the valuable tax revenue here rather than watching it go to nearby states like Connecticut. Not only that, even if they don’t cross the state lines, people will find other, often illegal, ways to gamble. There have always been organized crime folks who are willing to take bets. When illegal gambling takes place, the ability to tax is gone.

However, there does seem to be some buyer’s remorse on the part of the voters. The people of Massachusetts said that they wanted casinos. Later, though, many people began to think about what they had voted for and had second thoughts. A major campaign was launched to have a second vote, otherwise known as a “do-over.” In order to get such a proposition on the ballot, the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, would have had to sign off that the proposition met the necessary constitutional provisions. After examining the petition, which as of this writing has more than enough signatures to get it on the ballot, Coakley said no for a number of obscure reasons. The organizing group did not take no for an answer and has taken their case to court.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t like casinos. They argue that it is not coincidental that the easiest places to put these emporiums are where the most economically challenged of us live. Localities like Springfield really need the tax money.

As a result, political leaders are more easily brought on board. Ironically, the people who are most likely to be hurt by gambling are our poorest citizens. Slot machines are, for some folks, the new crack cocaine. Vulnerable people will try anything to get out of their circumstances.

I know of one store in the WAMC neighborhood where people who can least afford to line up to spend hundreds of dollars on lottery tickets. To me, playing to this type of weakness makes no sense.

There is also some doubt as to whether the gambling casinos will actually bring with them the economic prosperity they promise. The casinos in Atlantic City and so many other places have not led to widespread community development. To the contrary, the people who run these places want to keep the business behind the casino barricades. People are unlikely to move outside the portals to go to the neighborhood pizza joint or any of the other businesses.

We are also hearing that a lot of casinos are being developed. The more of these places that are created, the more likely it is that there will not be enough customers to go around. There are already examples of casinos that are asking for public handouts to support them. That is the last thing that we need to happen.

Finally, there is the NIMBY syndrome. It is one thing to conceptually support the concept of gambling. It is another when there is a proposal to bring it to your town, city or village.

Years ago, when someone suggested bringing a correctional facility to our area, the line formed at the rear for all those opposing the idea. They argued that a prison would harm our tourist industry, our quality of life, and our cultural institutions. I never like to split with my governor who I so admire but in this case, I just don’t see it. Once casinos are here, it is unlikely that they will go away any time soon.


Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/21/14

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One Comment on “Poorest most easily hurt by casinos”

  1. Harvey Says:

    Alan you got it right. However by getting it right you also open the door to actual solutions of New York’s economic malaise. Despite the repetitive re-use of the Spitzer commercials by Mr. Cuomo, reality is different than what the recycled Spitzer commercials. Reality is that New York has hardly improved and due to the actual increased overall debt of the state, counties, towns and cities, and special taxing districts and public benefit corporations it has become worse. Historically we have learned that when someone repetitively says something that is distorted it is known as “the Big Lie.” Then the Big Lie is used as an artificial device to make further claims, such as there is actual economic growth in NY instead of the lost good jobs being replaced by low paying jobs. Or that by capping “real property taxes” there is no loss of vital services by forced lay-offs or increased debt. Now there is one thing that NY does have. It is my favorite topic because it was born as a NIMBY to a full blown crusade. First let us consider the development of our oil drilling in the mid 1800’s. The same arguments against petroleum drilling are being made now, yet the migration of New Yorkers to states like Florida, California, South Dakota, I could go on and on; have created such a demand on potable water that sinkholes are no longer an oddity but an accepted part of life in states with economic opportunity. They are actually using the “fracking techniques” to recover pools of water deep within the earth. Now the “F” word fracking is the only thing that New York has going for itself that would provide excellent employment and tertiary economic opportunities. Of course the same institutions that protect our food and water supply must do the same thing for reclamation of natural gas deep beneath New York. When Mr. Cuomo recreates by driving in a 1960’s muscle car or a high powered motorcycle that offer low MPG this is kept a secret. Casino’s would have worked in the mid 1970’s in New York, but many of the current Cuomo big money contributors were involved the development of Atlantic City and didn’t want to competition of New York. These are the same Cuomo campaign contributors that would like to become involved in the construction, and supply of gambling machines, and the infrastructure. They expect a short term large profit only. New York is certainly in a bind. We hear the “Big Lie” and now false and dirty campaign commercials almost hourly. Even claims of increased tourism causing economic gain are ridiculous. Look at the types of employment generated by tourism in New York. Even the majestic Niagara Falls and city have long lost to the Canadian Niagara Falls. It is easy to pour precious taxpayer funds into economic development, however history has proven that these quick fixes are bogus and disappear when the public funds disappear leaving the debt to the county to figure out how to pay for the damage.


    From: Alan Chartocks Blog [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sent: Monday, June 23, 2014 7:27 AM To: hbrody@nycap.rr.com Subject: [New post] Poorest most easily hurt by casinos

    alanchartock posted: “Sometimes when you buy something, you find out later that you made a mistake.Unfortunately for you, you still own it. The rush to open casinos, both in the commonwealth and across the border in New York, is one good example. It is not surprising that both”

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