Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to authorize the development of three resort casinos and one slot parlor in Massachusetts. As I have said before, I do not believe that this is the right direction for Massachusetts, and I spoke out against this legislation on the floor of the House to urge my colleagues to vote against the bill. Unfortunately, the majority of my colleagues voted in favor of this legislation, and the Senate is expected to pass this bill soon, and the Governor is expected to sign it into law.
Expanded gambling in the Commonwealth is being touted as a jobs bill, yet there is a better way to create better jobs in better industries that are better for Massachusetts.
I have consistently opposed the legislature’s proposals for expanding gambling in the Commonwealth. In 2008, I wrote a detailed, twenty-page report analyzing the qualitative and quantitative costs and benefits of Governor Patrick’s initial three resort casino proposal.*
The cost-benefit analysis I did shows that expanding gambling in the Commonwealth is not a winning proposal for the people of Massachusetts. The costs are consistently understated, while the benefits are frequently overstated in terms of both revenues and jobs. We only have to look at other states’ experiences of late — check out Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and others —to see that expanding gambling in not a winning economic proposition.
During my tenure in the legislature, my top priority has consistently been preserving and increasing local aid to municipalities in order to support education, public works, and public safety. The cost-benefit analysis I did shows that three resort casinos in Massachusetts could steal from the lottery approximately $200 million that gets distributed as local aid to our towns.
That could put at risk hundreds of thousands of municipal employee jobs across the state: teachers, firefighters, police, public works employees, and others. We shouldn’t be gambling with local aid by moving forward with casino gambling.
When all the costs are tabulated, including the added costs of a new state government bureaucracy, new infrastructure needs, enhanced public safety efforts, and social costs, it is not clear that even the highest revenue estimates will be enough to substantially offset the costs associated with these proposals. I filed an amendment that would protect local aid by requiring the casino and slot parlor licensees to offset any cannibalization of lottery revenues/local aid, but the amendment was rejected as overly pessimistic.
I also oppose expanded gambling because it will have a devastating effect on small businesses across the Commonwealth. Supporting an industry that will undermine our state’s biggest job creators while offering an uncertain and unstable revenue source is not a smart economic policy for Massachusetts.
I believe that instead of gambling with our Commonwealth’s economy in such a fragile economic climate, we should be focused on investing in industries that are exportable — such as high-tech manufacturing, life sciences/bio tech, and renewable energy — and that fit the Massachusetts brand. In addition, we could create as many as 200,000 jobs over 5 years if we were to address the billions of dollars of unmet public transportation and infrastructure needs we have in this state.
Despite my consistent opposition to expanded gambling in 2008, 2010, and this year, at least four of my ideas to strengthen protections for casino employees, casino patrons, local communities, and local aid were included in the final casino legislation that was approved by the House of Representatives this session.
I hope that you will take the time to contact your state senators and the Governor to share your perspectives on expanded gambling legislation, as this bill is moving quickly through the legislative process.
* Conroy’s report, Preliminary Cost / Benefit Analysis of Three Destination Resort Casinos in Massachusetts, can be read in full here: http://www.tomconroy.org/sites/www.tomconroy.org/files/Conroy_Casino_Analysis_March_2008_with_biblio.pdf