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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Massachusetts May Shut Down Casinos Before Even One Opens

From The New York Times:

BOSTON — With the casino industry showing signs of retrenchment, voters in Massachusetts may do something that voters nowhere else have done, at least in the last century: slam on the brakes on casino gambling.

Massachusetts was one of the last states to climb aboard the casino craze, approving legislation in 2011 to allow three casinos and a slots parlor. Now it may be the first to reverse itself, with voters deciding in November whether to repeal the law before a single casino has been built.
 
“No state has ever repealed expanded gaming legislation since the modern industry of gambling started in 1931 with Nevada,” said Clyde W. Barrow, a political scientist at the University of Texas-Pan American who studies gambling.
 
Why is Massachusetts having second thoughts?

When the legislature voted to allow casinos, the state was limping through a nationwide recession. And Massachusetts gamblers continued to plunk their money down in other states.

But since then, the economy has improved. Red flags have been raised about the overall health of the casino industry. And the tortuous process of awarding casino licenses here has dragged on for three years, with no tangible benefits.

The debate has unfolded against a backdrop of bleak forecasts for the industry. In July, Fitch Ratings said industry weakness would persist, citing the saturation of regional markets, stagnant wages among lower-income players and the growth of online gambling. The steady drumbeat of bad news from Atlantic City has also caused concern here. Atlantic City is plagued with problems, many of them caused by competition from casinos in neighboring states. Four of its 12 casinos are shutting down this year, putting 8,000 people out of work, even as casino fever intensifies near New York City.

Despite this grim environment, casino advocates here express confidence that they will prevail. They say Atlantic City’s woes are not relevant because New Jersey put 12 casinos in one place; Massachusetts has planned just three, in three separate regions.

Their chief argument is that casinos will fuel an economic boon, providing 6,500 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs, virtually all of them unionized, with benefits and an average yearly salary of about $45,000 (more with tips). The casinos have pledged millions of dollars annually to their host and surrounding communities, thanks to the “repatriating” of cash that Massachusetts residents will no longer be dropping in other states.

The campaign to repeal casinos maintains that the promise of jobs and prosperity is hollow. It says casinos will not bring a net gain of jobs but a net loss, that people will spend their discretionary income at the casinos and sap local businesses, forcing them to lay off workers.

What critics do believe is that casinos will destroy their communities with more crime, traffic and addiction and that Massachusetts should not rely on a predatory industry to improve its economy because it will only fail.

The anti-casino campaign, called Repeal the Casino Deal, acknowledges that it faces an uphill battle. It lacks the resources of the casinos. It lacks a simple, bumper-sticker message like “jobs” to appeal to voters.

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