Sunday, March 21, 2010

Government Sponsored Gaming

Robert DeLeo, speaker of the Massachusetts House, has made an expanded gaming proposal for a limited number of slots at four racing venues as well as two resort casinos. He says, “... it is a plan that creates a new economic sector and new jobs in Massachusetts when we need them most. And we will reinvest a portion of whatever revenue we generate in economic development to create other new jobs.”

Job creation is a no-brainer! Jobs are maintained and/or created when purchases are made for goods and/or services, but in turn, one needs a job to earn the necessary income to make those purchases. The most effective way to create jobs is by creating an economic environment where one has disposable income to make purchases therefore increasing the business need to hire additional employees to produce goods or provide those services. The best way to do that is through tax incentives, as well as reduction in taxes and fees.

Obviously, just as importantly is a passionate need by our state representatives to first, rid our state of corruption and waste, and, second, to live within our means while still maintaining social programs -- entitlement reduction and/or elimination is usually the first action considered because it is an easy way out while leaving real obstacles to effective governance in place.

The incentive of lower taxes and effective state governance is also the best way -- not slots and casinos -- to attract manufacturers to come to Massachusetts and encourage those that are here to stay.

In regard to generating revenue, it is important to realize that casinos are designed to offer within their establishments products and services their customers may need in order to keep their customers in their casinos. So, in fact, casinos are in competition with non-gambling businesses in the communities within which they operate. Accordingly, it has been the experience of other states that government overestimates gambling revenues. The bottom-line is that money spent gambling will not be spent elsewhere. University of Massachusetts urban-planning professor Robert Goodman supports this contention by saying, “Newly opened casinos suck money out of the local economy, away from existing movie theaters, car dealerships, and clothing shops and sports arenas.”

And, there is the moral issue.

James Dobson, Ph.D., Commissioner of the National Gambling Impact Study (1997 – 99), says the study concludes: “gambling depicts a depth of pain and devastation that compels a change in the way betting is regarded; it preys on the desperation of the poor by peddling false hope; and, it exploits the most vulnerable. It undermines the ethic of work, sacrifice, and personal responsibility that exemplify the best qualities of American society. If you scratch beneath the veneer of gambling-induced prosperity, the pain, despair and hopelessness of problem and pathological gamblers is recognized as a stark tragedy. We must reject the fantasy that wagering is innocuous entertainment and deal earnestly with the destruction and pain that it causes to individuals, families, and society.”

Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald columnists, says Speaker DeLeo is turning a deaf ear toward what ought to concern him most: “How can you justify exploiting the misery of the public you allegedly serve?” It simply “Encourage [encourages] more people to bet, then let the state stuff its pockets with the money the losers leave behind.”

Despite the gaming industry’s claim that within their operations they address pathological gambling, nevertheless, gambling addiction and associated large-scale social issues are never fundamentally resolved.

Robert DeLeo’s proposal simply does not represent the best example of effective leadership, nor good government.