One of the most profound statements Deval Patrick made as he campaigned for governor was to acknowledge that the broken schools, cities and streets of Massachusetts belong to all of us and that we all need to pay to fix them. Gambling is a way to shift that responsibility to a smaller number of people so we can avoid our shared responsibility. I oppose the expansion of legal gambling to include casinos in Massachusetts.
If you look at the distribution of Lottery ticket sales, you will see that they are much higher, per capita, among the people who live in the state's poorest communities. I expect casinos would do an even better job at separating the working poor from their cash than the Lottery does.
The creation of casinos in the state threatens the revenue the state currently receives from the Lottery. I see no reason to believe that Lottery sales will remain as high as they are (the highest in the nation, on a per capita basis, of any state lottery) if casinos compete. Chronic gamblers will likely shift their activities to places where the state benefits even less while the gamblers lose even more money.
If legal gambling is expanded to include three full casinos it will lead to more social problems, including gambling addiction and increased domestic abuse, facts acknowledged by the proponents of casinos. They think that is an acceptable social price. I don't, even if programs to deal with these problems are expanded.
Finally, if any Class 3 gambling (card games, slot machines and table games) is made legal in Massachusetts, federally recognized Native American tribes are authorized by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to build casinos and gambling establishments that are neither taxable nor regulated by the state. These facilities can be built not just on tribal land but also on land purchased by the tribe and put into trust on their behalf. That means the legalization of even one casino would almost certainly result in other casinos owned by Native American tribes with no financial benefit to the Commonwealth.
We would be far better off if we concentrate on creating the conditions that will allow other sectors of the economy to thrive. We should put our time in trying to reduce the growth in the cost of health care. We should invest in energy conservation to reduce the money we export to other countries for the purchase of fossil fuels. Let’s make sure our workforce is trained for the jobs of tomorrow. The debate about casinos is not just a distraction from those efforts, it jeopardizes our future.