Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Would you take this bet?

The Globe has an interesting piece today on the state of the gaming industry and how it relates to the prospects for a new push for casinos here in Massachusetts. If ever you were inclined to believe the Governor's predictions of money raining from the skies if only we'd license some casinos, you ought to take the time to read this article.

The upshot is this: the gaming industry has been hit hard by the recession. Massachusetts can no longer expect (if it ever could) developers to spend hundreds of millions of dollars merely for a license to build a resort casino in Massachusetts. They may not have the money to build such facilities at all.

There is some significant cause for concern in the subtext of the article, however. If developers are not willing or able to build destination resort casinos, we could always let them throw some slots in at our tracks, open "gambling halls," etc. Here's a chilling paragraph:
Instead of resorts, Loveman said, the Massachusetts Legislature should pursue an incremental approach to expanded gambling by legalizing slot machines at the racetracks, including Suffolk Downs. One model, he said, would be similar to Detroit, where state officials allowed for temporary casinos until developers could secure more funding and build bigger tourist destinations.
Anyone been to Detroit lately? This guy would be well-advised to find another model. Quite possibly he does not have one.

This is doubly chilling because Bob DeLeo, our new Speaker, has been an open and enthusiastic advocate for "slots at the tracks." But we need to look no further than our diminutive neighbor to the immediate south to see that this low-rent, "racino" option is not faring any better than the resort casinos in this downturn. Rhode Island's Twin Rivers racino, formerly known in its pre-slots days as the Lincoln Greyhound Park, is facing bankruptcy. In the spirit of the times, the State of Rhode Island is considering a buy-out.

To his credit, during last year's casino debate Governor Patrick was emphatic that he wanted "destination resort casinos," not slots parlors, racinos, or any of the dozens of other permutations of the gambling hall that tend to spring up as soon as a state legalizes gambling within its borders. More recently, though, he's indicated subtly that he'd be willing to lower his standards as part of a deal with DeLeo to get gambling legislation passed. Detroit and Rhode Island are just two of many examples that the Governor ought to be looking at if he thinks any form of gambling legalization is going to bail out the Commonwealth. There are many others.

UPDATE: A bit of related breaking news blows a big hole in one of Governor Patrick's primary arguments for his casino plan last year: namely that casinos in Massachusetts were "inevitable" and so the state might as well get a piece of the action. That argument was always arguably bogus; now it is indisputably so.

1 comment:

  1. The multiple personality disorder that characterizes this legislature is mind boggling. Are they tax and spend Dems or, well, tax and tax and tax and spend Dems? First, they petition the Feds for porkulus funds, telling us the $13 the Feds promise is a "taxpayer" windfall. Then, they move to tax everything they can get their hands on to get back the $13 - a windfall for the state after all.
    Then, they promise a "fair" gas tax will cancel out toll increases but the Trans board wants the increase anyway.
    While claiming that they need all this money to help those suffering most in this economic "catastrophe" they propose an additional blight on our state, the classic "tax on the poor" gambling casino?
    Well, we ( but not me) elected them knowing full well what we were in for. Maybe it's the constituents that have the disorder after all.

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