CasinoFacts in the land of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"
10/8/07 - The anti-casino true believers, and by that I mean those who sincerely believe in the evils of casino gambling, have in the past resorted to exaggerating claims of the downside of having a casino here in Middleboro. They engaged in cherry picking data, touting old research since debunked by newer, better research, and cried foul every chance they got when the majority of Middleboro voters decided in favor of the casino agreement.
There were a few, perhaps just one or two, active members of the early CasinoFacts movement who told myself and others that while they thought gambling was, shall we say, a bad thing, they'd put their reservations aside if the price was right. More than once I heard the figure $20 million bandied about. Others, when pressed, admitted they wouldn't have such strong feelings about a Mashpee casino if it was located in New Bedford.
The vast majority of them, however, would say that no amount of money coming back to Middleboro would get them to change their mind. They said that casinos anywhere brought so many social ills they shouldn't be allowed. I wasn't thrilled about their playing fast and loose with the facts, but I always respected their zeal.
But now they found new allies in the leaders of the towns surrounding Middleboro who belong to a regional casino task force. These are their new best friends. Their refusal to allow our town planner, Ruth Geoffoy, address them at one of their meetings shows that they have no love lost for Middleboro officialdom.
But is their animosity towards our town due to the casino threat to their rectitude or to their being mired in red ink?
I have a feeling that the civic leaders in the other towns would readily agree to having a casino in Middleboro if they got what they believed was a fair piece of the action.
Unfortunately for them, they will have to get this as part of their share from the percentage the state receives. That is how it should be. The casino will be built in Middleboro, and as CasinoFacts told us so many times before, will effect Middleboro more than any other community.
Now they are fanning the fires of fear in nearby towns as they see potential allies in their crusade against a Middleboro casino.
Of course now they want other towns to tremble in fear at the prospect of unleashed casino plagues of crime, bankruptcy, divorce, abandoned children, children yammering in unintelligible tongues, and a dimmed night sky.
Do you want to bet that the majority of officials and residents in these towns will listen to these portents of doom and think that the doomsayers have a parochial agenda that undermines their own agenda for rescuing their towns from the precipice of bankruptcy. .
Pet peeves, new rules, whatever...
10/2/07 Political comedian Bill Maher calls his "new rules", the old term is pet peeves. Whatever you call them, I have developed a few of my own since this Middleboro casino brouhaha began. In the past week I've added several to my list:
1) Governor Patrick, stop talking about three casinos in Massachusetts. You know damn well that there's a good chance the Mashpee Wampanoag will build their casino in Middleboro on tribal land without a commercial license from the state.
2) And another for the guv., what on earth are you thinking with this casino generated payout to taxpayers to help them with their property taxes? Why not just give some money back to the towns to spend as they see fit?
3) Those anti-casino pundits who manage to get online with opinions persist in writing about casino caused criminality as if Satan himself will unleash hoards of bloodthirsty demons upon a helpless population. New rule: leave such fantasy for the witches of Charmed and the vampire hunters of Buffy.
4) Just today an opinion writer added to his list of the perils of casinos "abandoned children". New Rule: Don't make shit up for effect.
5) Last night I understand that someone complained at the selectman's meeting that they shouldn't have the old casino study committee be the core group on the new (renamed) resort committee because they were pro-casino. These are people who went into the process of studying the impact a casino would have on Middleboro with an open mind and concluded the pros outweighed the cons. That makes them pro casino. Are we to keep reconstituting committees like this any time we don't have a 50/50 balance of opinion after conscientious members study an issue and reach a conclusion?
6) First casino supporters toyed with the idea of not calling it gambling, opting for the word gaming instead. That never stuck, probably because nobody ever uses the term. Then locally we all tried to jump on the term resort-casino to convey the fact (yes, an actual fact) that the Mashpee were planning a resort with other entertainments besides gambling. Governor Patrick jumped in adding the modifier destination to resort and casino. Now some just want to just call it a resort. New rule: Everyone knows all major American casinos feature a variety of attractions and differ primarily in size, so let's not play with words and call ours what it will be: a billion dollar casino.
7) New rule: If you go to a rally or demonstration or public event, expect to be photographed and don't demand that these photos aren't published. I've been on the receiving end of such requests, often not polite. When I asked a professional newspaper photographer for a local daily paper about whether this happened to him he said at least once a week.
Despite title, article provides a balanced picture of Ct. casinos local economic impact
9/30/07 I usually don't put direct links to online material of interest to readers since I assume that if you are trying to keep up with the news you'll use the excellent Google News search function and/or Google News email alerts. But if you do this, once in a while a piece without the search words (see editorial below) may slip by. Such is the case in this Cape Cod Times and Standard Times article.
It's title Stores surrounding casinos struggle to maintain a profit (LINK) is misleading as the article describes a much more complex picture of economic growth spurred by Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in the local area. An objective reading of the article shows that the positive impacts on the economy more than out weigh the overall negative effects on area business.
Another article, which should have come up on your Google News search, is important enough to include here as it describes the results of an important poll just conducted by the Boston Globe. Read "53% in poll back Patrick casinos plan: But survey shows strong concerns over proposed locations" Note that the 53% in the headline is deceptive because 12% were neutral, thus the percentage is really 53% in favor and only 34% opposed.
The polls showed that most people had concerns over the sitting of casinos.
Also of interest:
But the Massachusetts residents surveyed said they do not think the economic rationale is the strongest argument for casinos. Instead, their most popular reason is cultural acceptance: Sixty-one percent of those polled said they view gambling as a "viable and legal entertainment option, just like going to the movies.
Follow-up interviews with poll participants indicated that many people have qualms about gambling but generally think the benefits outweigh the risks.
Everyone's got their crystal ball
9/25/07 - (I assume that just about everyone reading this is also following the many news articles about casinos and Middleboro. If not I suggest getting news alerts from Google News emailed to you for every article containing the word Middleboro and another for the two words casino and Massachusetts. With this assumption I am not going to put links to all articles that led me to write this editorial.)
Consider some of the news and opinion published in the last week, even here on Casino-Friend with Tony Lawrence's column. Tony says he has "no crystal ball" but like so many others in the world of prediction and punditry, he offers a number of scenarios he has envisioned.
Others express their predictions as if they actually do have infallible crystal balls. On each side we have some whose prognostications sound more like wishful thinking.
The fact is that nobody, not even the Mashpee and their backers, Governor Patrick and that pack of pols on Beacon Hill, and our learned academic friends actually know what is going to happen.
There are simply too many unknown factors. But that doesn't stop those who manage to blab on to anyone besides their immediate circle of friends and acquaintances about casinos from offering pearls of wisdom to and through the media. I am as guilty of this as anyone who has some kind of bully pulpit and won't resist the temptation to use air time or print exposure to speculate on the Massachusetts casino questions.
There are a few things we know for sure and, without fear of contradiction, can state them as facts. Massachusetts needs money. Residents are loath to pay more income or property taxes. Massachusetts residents go to Connecticut and Rhode Island where they spend millions of dollars at class III casinos. Some people are addicted to gambling and this is a difficult compulsive illness to treat, although there is promising research being conducted. (See this article in today's Boston Globe for an instructive discussion of gambling addiction and casinos.)
Obviously, casinos bring change to the communities that host them. That's a fact. But whether the changes shift the balance on the scale to the plus or minus side is an entirely subjective question.
While there have been questions and legitimate concerns raised about casinos increasing addiction and crime, and there have been a number of studies, the figures being bandied about as if they are absolute facts tend to be interpreted one way if you're pro-casino and the opposite if you're anti-casino.
These concerns generally are part of what people mean when they talk about the increased social costs of having casino gambling, but it is awfully presumptious to talk about increased social costs as if we know exactly how to measure them.
Even the fact that casinos create new jobs, surely true, is questioned by those who suggest that there is little if any net gain in jobs because casinos force some business to close and the work force to be redistributed.
It is also a fact that hasn't been addressed too much in the press that class II gambling is legal in Massachusetts, and that if the Mashpee Wampanoag put their Middleboro land into trust they can open a casino with this type of gambling without state permission. This is what the Seminole in Florida have done with enough success to have six casinos and enough money to buy the Hard Rock Cafe for nearly $1 billion.
As an interesting and possibly relevant aside, an article in yesterday's Miami Herald describes how the tribe is currently suing the state of Florida for class III gambling.
There's also another unarguable fact that isn't mentioned very often except as a a kind of "billionaires are evil" attack coming from anti-casino forces. This is that the Mashpee wouldn't have gotten this far without billionaire investors to didn't become exceedingly rich by making stupid decisions, and that the Mashpee's fate in the casino business is tied to the acumen of these investors whose motives are clearly to keeping making a hell of a lot of money.
This in and of itself doesn't prove that the Mashpee Middleboro casino will see fruition, but it is still a factor to be added to the equation.
Another fact that doesn't prove anything is the announcement yesterday that the University of Massachusetts "Hospitality and Tourism Management department will launch a new casino management program. UMass will become the only university on the east coast to offer such a program". This is just a factor to also add to the equation.
Another fact, perhaps the most important locally, is that while both the state and the Mashpee have a number of options for working together, there is only one legal agreement in place for a sharing of casino revenue, be it a class II or III casino, and that is between Middleboro and the tribe.
The perils of the press: The are facts and then there are snippets removed from context
I'm always leery of anyone who prefaces a statement with "the fact of the matter"
9/17/07 Last night both Richard Young, president of CasinoFacts.org, and I, were interviewed by ABC News channel 6 ( See video clip ). I'm used to dogmatic statements like Mr. Young made coming from some members of the anti-casino group. He asserted, as if he had a crystal ball, that while the casino "may generate dollars at the very beginning, the fact of the matter is the costs don't outweigh those dollars".
We just have no way of proving this in advance. It's not a fact of the matter. It's a prediction, or if you will, an educated guess that well meaning people can use different data to support.
We've both endeavored to educate ourselves. Yet we have come to different conclusions.
This may sound that one of us has to be right, the other wrong. However, it could be a matter of perspective. We may be like the two blind men describing an elephant while one holds the tail and has little good to say about it, and the other the trunk who marvels at this magnificent beast.
I wish we'd all admit we are reaching our conclusions based on presumptions and assumptions, and none of us can divine or prognosticate everything that will happen.
Those concerns about social costs may come from some of the older studies which suggested casinos bring crime, mental illness and so on. Or they may just be based on what seems to people like common sense or from personal experience. But these social costs, whatever they turn out to be, can be addressed and mitigated.
As for the economic impacts, these should be based complex economic equations. Early studies suggested casinos on balance did not improve the economy. These studies have since been replaced by newer research with opposite conclusions. These are described in previous Casino-Friend articles.
However, of more concern is what viewers will make of Young's edited response to a question by the reporter that the laws applicable to commercial Massachusetts casinos wouldn't apply to an indian casino on reservation land.
Since posting this an hour ago, Mr. Young called me and explained that his full answer was edited out. He addressed a number of issues where he contended that state law wouldn't apply, for example environmental regulations. On air he stated "all the laws of the commonwealth immediately apply (to commercial casinos), all the regulations of the commonwealth also apply" clearly suggesting that in some way a casino on indian trust land would have lax oversight. In a subsequent NECN interview (VIEW) Young notes that a tribal casino isn't subject to state and local tax, but he doesn't address either the fact that they need a compact with the state that generally gives the state 25% of gross slot machine revenues, and that they already have an agreement with Middleboro which will help finance town services for generations to come.
It remains to be seen whether the Mashpee would turn their new sovereign nation into a blight on the landscape, flouting every sensible law enacted for the public good over the past 250 years. I rather doubt it.
Would they try to avoid paying their fair share in lieu of taxes? I rather doubt it.
Lest some viewers of brief television sound bites that are removed from context get the wrong idea, I think the notion that oversight of gaming would be lax in an indian casino should be clarified.
Indian casinos on tribal trust land is subject to three levels of oversight:
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act also provides for regulatory oversight at the federal level and created the National Indian Gaming Commission as the responsible agency. Indian gaming is regulated at three levels: tribal, state and federal. Tribes provide the first level of regulation, states provide the second level of oversight through compacts with tribes, and the third level of regulation is provided through the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) (Ashton, 2003). The NIGC is an independent federal regulatory agency that regulates Indian gaming by ensuring that tribes are the primary beneficiaries of gaming revenues and that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly by both operators and players (National Indian Gaming Commission, 2006b). As part of its oversight function, the NIGC reviews and approves tribal gaming ordinances, reviews and approves management contracts, conducts background investigations on employees, conducts audits and investigations and enforces federal gaming laws (Aston, 2003; National Indian Gaming Commission, 2006b). From: "Native American Gaming and Tribal Economic Development: Myths and Realities" by Amy Fann published by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education.
Those of us who the media seeks out to present a pro or con side to the casino debate should endeavor to present the facts without distortion, even when they don't always support our side's viewpoint 100%. But we also need to be aware that a twenty minute interview will end up as a fifteen second sound bite.
I expect casino supporters to hold me to this standard both in what I write here and what I say to the media, but I agree with Richard Young who suggested it would be far better if at least the television media utilized modern technology so viewers could access full unedited interviews.
What's next for anti-gambling forces when casinos come to Massachusetts?
9/12/07 After they fought the good fight to convince everyone to stop casino gambling from Middleboro voters, to Governor Patrick, to the state legislature, and even the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and realized they've lost, what might those dedicated to the anti-casino cause do?
For one thing, they might pick and choose among the skills and interests each of them has to join forces with groups seeking to mitigate the down sides of gambling. Not just casino gambling, but all kinds of gambling.
I have always felt that proactive intervention in the form of education was more important than treatment for compulsive gamblers. There are already moves to add courses about gamblingin several states to public schools curriculums. These focus on probability and statistics. A side benefit is that this is a good way to learn practical applications of math.*
With a good teacher a child can learn how to counter an emotional response with critical thinking.
Courses like this, or others, should address the psychology of gambling and advanced classes should go deeper into the neuropathology and treatment of compulsive behavior.
There's a good article about this in the Kansas City Star: "Schools could get lesson plans that teach math, risks of gambling".
Others who proved so resourceful in fighting the Middleboro casino may decide to join groups working to improve traffic to effect better light and noise abatement.
They can volunteer to work at the schools to help with students who need tutoring in English and other subjects.
There is much that those who demonstrated a commitment to a cause they believed in can do to help our community when a casino comes to town.
* A drawback is that becoming adept at propability may may help a kid be a better poker or blackjack player but card games that require some skill don't seem to lure compulsive gamblers as pure games of chance do.
California professors find casinos help local economy
9/5/07 Many in the anti-casino movement claim that there are no "up sides" to casinos. They claim that not only do casinos ruin lives and destroy the quality of life in host communities, but that the towns where they're located don't accrue any economic benefits.
University of California, Riverside, professors Mindy Marks and Kate Spilde Contreras, managing director of the university's Center for California Native Nations, "found that tribal gaming tends to concentrate employment and other economic benefits near casinos in counties that need economic development the most." Study finds gaming boosts local economy in the San Bernadino Sun (LINK)
This is from the executive summary of the published paper:
These findings suggest that, on the whole, gaming operations have had beneficial effects on the tribes, on communities near gaming facilities, and on California more generally. In particular, the establishment of gaming has had beneficial effects on income levels, poverty rates, employment, and educational attainment. Further, these are progressive effects, meaning that poorer areas received larger benefits than more prosperous areas.
The consequences of tribal government gaming in California are directly related to two identifiable features of the enterprises themselves: 1) the fact that they are owned by tribal governments, and 2) the fact that they must be located on existing tribal trust lands. Tribal government ownership places a natural limit on the growth of casino gaming in California and directs gaming revenues towards socioeconomic recovery in tribal communities and regions.
Read entire study here: Lands of Opportunity: Social and Economic Effects of Tribal Gaming on Localities
Read another study by same authors: An Impact Analysis of Tribal Government Gaming in California or read key findings here.
More anti-casino propaganda
9/8/07 Today's editorial in The Brockton Enterprise, ostensibly a plea to Gov. Deval Patrik to take his time deciding the class III gambling question, is really nothing more than excuse to spout tired old discredited anti-casino propaganda.
It begins by stating the obvious: casino gambling will of course change (an aspect of) the state's economy, alter lives, and effect the state by creating new issues.
There's little doubt the editors of The Enterprise mean to imply that all this is bad. There's no mention of the jobs casino resorts (not only in Middleboro) will create and the revenue they will generate to improve education and other public services. That's not to mention the recreation for numerous residents.
Then they make a claim oft heard coming from foes of casinos here in Middleboro. This is pure propaganda with absolutely no proof behind it. They say:
This rational approach is in sharp contrast to what has happened in Middleboro in recent months where residents reluctantly voted to support a casino,
How do they know those who voted yes on the agreement did so reluctantly?
Supposedly the anti-casino diehard vote held when most residents left the town meeting, leaving behind those waiting for a chance to vote on the last item put on the warrant by casino foes, as to whether they wanted a casino in Middleboro is supposed to be an accurate measure of town sentiment, despite the two to one majority who voted for the agreement.
This is pure unabashed propaganda. It is anti-casino spin. It's ridiculous.
Then, trying to throw in every anti-casino diatribe they can, they spit out the fact that the casino is "to be built by the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe (or more accurately, their billionaire backers)."
Of course the casino will be backed by billionaire investors. The Mashpee don't have two spare indian head nickels to rub together. Who else is going to fund the casino?
Then they go on to reiterate the empty claim that there wasn't enough time to debate and reflect on how the casino would affect the town and the region.
This seems to be a paragraph out of the anti-casino force's little red book of sound bites. It only measures the time between the agreement being made public and the town meeting. They conveniently "forget" that they had a web site presenting so-called casino facts long before that and there was considerable debate and discussion over many weeks.
The agreement dealt primarily with money and mitigation, two matters that shouldn't matter to those against the casino because of the quality of life reasons emphasized in their arguments.
Apparently thinking they're on a winning streak, these enterprising editors throw out yet another tall tale. They claim that yes voters were influenced by "the subtle threat that if Middleboro didn't make up its mind — and fast — the Indians would take their slot machines elsewhere."
Granted Glenn Marshall played this card as part of his own persuasion game, but virtually nobody in Middleboro believed the Mashpee ever really seriously wanted to come anyplace else.
Of course no Enterprise anti-casino editorial would be complete without a little gratuitous muck-raking. So of course they bring up what they call "the outing" (shades of Senator Larry Craig) of Glenn Marshall, threatened lawsuits, criticism from the Rhode Island Wampanoag tribe, and as if they have observed this personally, "general chaos" that they say "bodes ill for the smooth construction of the proposed $1 billion complex."
They end by counseling Gov. Patrick to take his time and by reminding him of the importance of this decision.
They finally offer him this "sage advice":
Don't let anyone from any quarter put pressure on you. Do what is best for the long-term welfare of the people of Massachusetts.
Want to bet that the governor appreciates this piece of Enterprise wisdom?