Meetings & Information


Monday, March 29, 2010

Mushroom Farming Flourishes on Beacon Hill

Mushroom Farming is what it is: Grown in the dark and fed a diet of manure. And it's flourishing on Beacon Hill.
Kathi-Anne Reinstein, a Revere Democrat who organized the SECRET CLOSED DOOR briefing, told the News Service the session was closed TO THE PUBLIC so state reps would "feel comfortable to ask any questions without having any type of criticism'' and surely at the request of gambling interests who can make undisputed wild promises that are unsubstantiated and never be held accountable.

OTB was crammed through after secret meetings and a voice vote.

Arrogance Prevails on Beacon Hill

So why did DeLeo close the caucus to the public and the press? What is he trying to hide?
The most likely answer is that keeping serious discussions secret is the default setting on Beacon Hill. When in doubt, lock everyone out.
The practice of having its most important debates behind closed doors, and the arrogance that practice reflects, has everything to do with the Legislature’s lack of credibility with the public. It may be unfair, even inaccurate, to assume corruption thrives behind locked doors in the Statehouse, but DeLeo and his colleagues only feed that notion with their actions.

House Speaker "Slots" DeLeo has two 'race tracks' in his district and is conducting meetings behind closed doors with whom?

The Industry?

There are many surrounding issues that require open, public and transparent discussions.

Who will pay the cost of the infrastructure required for DeLeo's fantasy being one of the most expensive?

How is the Speaker determining what should be in the legislation? Is it being based on promises made behind closed doors?

The voters expressed their disgust at the voting booth when they sent Scott Brown to Washington.

Why the secrecy, Mr. Speaker? Something to hide?

Mr. Speaker, why do you oppose an Independent Cost Benefit Analysis that the Governor, the AG, the Mass Chiefs of Police Assn., and others support? Are you afraid of the results?

Rep. Steve Canessa who represents a portion of Middleboro?

Taunton Gazette

State Rep. Stephen Canessa, D-New Bedford, said he hoped Southeastern Massachusetts would be selected to host one of the resort casinos. But if Boston and a site in western Massachusetts are awarded license, he might reconsider his vote.
"Boston gets enough. They don't need another resort attraction," he said.

Or making a comment about totally overinflated revenues at a non-public meeting that get quoted like this:

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said slot parlors and casinos could deliver $1 billion to state coffers, helping to fill the state's $2.5 billion structural deficit.

Or this?

Before a gathering of about 100 business professionals, [Rep. David] Flynn publicized the dates for the highly-anticipated gambling hearings in the House of Representatives.

Rep. "Racino" Flynn attended a non-public meeting and annouced the dates of the House casino/slot hearing are April 14, 15, 16.

Scheduling hearings, but not publicly posting the dates?

Why is this secret?

The last series of meetings were emailed directly to those with a "vested" interest, like the owner of Plainridge.

This needs to change!

If you don't want to be accused of corruption and back room dealing by the public, maybe you should amend your conduct.

Greyhound Racing Dead

Has dog racing run its course?
A dying breed: While greyhound tracks close across the country, the industry’s prospects worsen as gaming companies complain about having to subsidize an antiquated sport

The national convention of the American Greyhound Track Owners Association that starts today at Caesars Palace will include a sober accounting of the industry’s latest victims — and the intractable problems that will contribute to future closures.

Each year attendance drops at the convention. This year’s gathering is expected to draw about 120 people. Fifteen years ago the tally was upwards of 400.

The industry is in such rapid decline that a growing number of dog track owners are finding common ground with animal rights groups hoping to put live dog racing out of its misery.

In Iowa, for example, Harrah’s Entertainment is trying to outlaw part of its gambling business and is willing to pay the state $7 million a year for the privilege.

More than half of the nation’s greyhound tracks have closed for lack of business in the past three decades. Four closed last year alone, leaving some states without any live dog racing.

Although profits are down for many companies because of the recession, track owners are fighting to stay alive in the face of competition from casinos, an unsympathetic public uncomfortable with the concept of racing dogs for sport and state legislatures seeking more tax dollars from gambling to fill budget gaps.

But most of all, they are battling time itself.

“It’s a different era now than it was 40 and 50 years ago,” says Karen Keelan, association president and owner of a New Hampshire track that stopped live dog racing in 2008 and offers wagering on simulcast races. “The entertainment ideal is different today. There are so many things for people to do in their spare time. And everything’s quicker, with the Internet and social networking.”

Keelan, who began working at her father’s track after college, is trying to keep her family business alive after selling a Connecticut track in 2006 that couldn’t compete with the nearby giant Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

The situation is more dire for kennel and dog owners who don’t have land to sell or the chance to profit from casinos like gambling companies do. Many are choosing to retire as tracks are phased out or have moved kennels and dogs to other states where prospects are somewhat brighter.

Among them is Fred Fulchino, owner of Regall Sports Kennel in Connecticut. At 44, he’s not ready to exit the business.

Instead, he has moved his 75 dogs to Florida, where they race at the Mardi Gras racetrack near Hollywood, which is subsidized by an adjacent casino.

Like Keelan, Fulchino is a realist.

“People want instant gratification,” Fulchino said. “They want to put in three dollars, pull a lever and win $10,000. They’re not happy winning $500 like the old-timer handicappers did by studying racing forms.”

Gamblers have wagered on greyhounds in the United States since at least 1925, when Derby Lane opened for business in St. Petersburg — and Florida remains the state with the most greyhound tracks — but by the 1970s there were many tracks in other states.

The beginning of the end for greyhound racing began in the 1980s and 1990s with the introduction of state lotteries and especially casinos with Las Vegas-style gambling and flashy slot machines. Wagering on greyhound races in the United States has declined from $3.5 billion in 1991 to $1.1 billion in 2007, according to the Association of Racing Commissioners. This 68 percent decline has been sure and steady. More than half of the greyhound tracks that were operating in the late 1980s and early 1990s have since closed.

The continued decline in dog racing has become even more painful for casino owners who are required to subsidize the tracks as a condition of operating casinos with slot machines.

Casino gambling would not exist in many states but for dog and horse tracks and their financial problems. Over the past two decades, several states legalized casinos at the site of dog and horse tracks for the stated purpose of subsidizing these businesses with slot machine profits.

Among them was Iowa, the first state to legalize riverboat gambling. Years after gambling boats began operating there in 1991, the state — in an attempt to prop up a well-entrenched agricultural economy dependent on the feeding, breeding and racing of greyhounds — established rules requiring casinos with dog tracks to offer a certain number of races per year.

Harrah’s, which commissioned a study this year that attempts to quantify the amount of such subsidies, says the setup doesn’t make economic sense for business or the state.

Instead of diverting $12 million a year in slot revenue to supplement the prize money divided up among dog owners and breeders, Iowa’s two casinos with greyhound tracks want to pay the state $10 million a year. Dog owners and breeders say that money wouldn’t come close to the economic loss of an entire industry, with its trickle-down effect on retailers and consumers.

Still, Harrah’s calls greyhound racing a giant waste of money and resources — including real estate that could be used for more profitable enterprises.

“It’s like a horse and buggy manufacturer getting a subsidy from an auto manufacturer,” Harrah’s spokesman Gary Thompson says. “We’re subsidizing a dying business.”

Using slot money to support tracks never made much economic sense to begin with, though racetrack casinos were more politically palatable at the time, adds Jan Jones, the company’s senior vice president of communications and government relations.

“Horse and dog breeders have their share of political influence,” Jones says. “There were jobs at stake. And these facilities existed to begin with. It just seemed easier to put slots where betting was already taking place.”

According to the Harrah’s study, greyhound owners and kennels competing in Iowa have received $140 million in casino revenue since the subsidy was initiated in 1995, with 42 percent of the money going to owners and kennels in other states.

“We’re losing money and the state is losing money,” Jones says. “And we’re not seeing a lot of young customers getting into greyhound racing.”

In recent years, several tracks unable to open casinos on their property have closed. Meanwhile, other tracks without slots are hanging on in the hope that they will be allowed to offer the machines in time to save their businesses. For these casino hopefuls, greyhound tracks will function much like the few bingo games left in Las Vegas Strip resorts: They will be cultural curiosities or something to do with the grandparents on a Sunday afternoon.

“The product became an antique. We were an 8-track cassette store in a world of CDs,” laments Roy Berger, executive vice president of the Dairyland Greyhound Park in Wisconsin, which closed last year after sustaining $17 million in losses over five years.

After Wisconsin legalized pari-mutuel betting on races and a lottery in 1988, Indian tribes built casinos on reservation land with the blessing of the federal government, which said tribes were entitled to offer gambling games of their own. Racetrack owners fought the tribes in court and lost. They also attempted to build casinos themselves but to no avail — the state wasn’t eager to approve Las Vegas-style casinos on nontribal lands.

“It’s extremely unfair that the Native American casinos have a monopoly on this product,” Berger complains. “It’s like operating a grocery store next to another store that opens down the block with a different kind of beer or soda that we’re prohibited from selling.”

Such is the crazy-quilt patchwork of state gambling laws that have opened the door to tribal casinos while prohibiting slot machines for nontribal entities that lack public support and require voter approval for casino gambling. In spite of the continued spread of casinos nationwide, many people, especially in socially conservative communities, don’t want to live near them.

Unlike many of her peers, Keelan doesn’t believe slot machines at greyhound tracks are the answer to survival.

A Rhode Island track, Lincoln, has declared bankruptcy even after being able to simulcast races and add slot machines.

“Sometimes the payback isn’t there,” Keelan says. “With the downturn, it’s hard to keep up with what makes people happy anymore.”

Grey2K USA video
Increasingly, track owners are confiding in a former enemy, a national greyhound advocacy group called Grey2K USA.

The Boston-based nonprofit, which aims to outlaw greyhound racing, backed a successful ballot measure in 2008 to end greyhound racing in Massachusetts and is expected to win a similar fight in Rhode Island, where the Twin River track seeks to end live racing as part of a bankruptcy court agreement. Track owners in New Hampshire and Colorado have already lobbied lawmakers to give up live racing and instead offer simulcast races.

“It’s so odd to be agreeing with people who have spent millions fighting you after so many years,” says Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K USA. “It’s like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”

Coupled with the economic argument against greyhound racing is a shift in public opinion against racing dogs for sport, Theil says.

His organization has helped shape public opinion with devastating videos, using race footage broadcast by the tracks for gambling purposes, showing dogs injured during races. The group has cross-referenced videos with publicly available statistics on dog injuries to determine the identities of hurt dogs, including the dogs’ names and what they look like.

Track owners say they are doing their best to care for their dogs. Mistreating greyhounds isn’t tolerated like it was decades ago, while the vast majority of dogs are adopted out after racing for a few years.

“These are athletes. They live in air-conditioned buildings and are exercised frequently. They’re on strict diets. They’re massaged and given whirlpool baths,” Richard Winning, vice president of Derby Lane, says.

Still, even standard practices such as keeping dogs in cages, muzzling them and leading them out for exercise and back into their crates don’t sit well with some people.

Even Harrah’s, accustomed to doing battle with community activists as the nation’s largest and most geographically diverse casino operator, isn’t entirely comfortable with the continued practice of racing animals that many consumers consider pets.

“We’re not sure this is a business we want to be in,” Jones says. It would be disingenuous, however, to say the company is motivated by altruism for the dogs, she adds.

Keenly aware of the public’s declining interest in dog racing and animal rights concerns, Isadore Havenick, 32, sees a potential solution: The third-generation greyhound track operator wants to reduce the number of races he is required to offer at his family’s Flagler Dog Track in Miami and a second track in Naples. Florida tracks with casinos have different racing requirements that are built into state law.

“When people ask what I do I say I work in a casino,” says Havenick, who opened the Magic City casino next to the Flagler track in October. When the dogs aren’t running, the track hosts concerts for casino customers.

“We lose money on dog racing every day,” he adds.

Winning, whose great-grandfather founded the U.S.’ first greyhound track, holds onto to hope that dog racing will make a comeback and retain a permanent, though smaller, place in the gambling industry.

After all, Winning says, “Everyone thought disco was dead but it came back.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Slots = Community Degradation

More interesting than the article below is the comment by a poster identifying himself as Steve Norton and touting the success of Atlantic City that studies disprove.
Mr. Norton's companies have filed bankruptcy to renegotiate the terms of their agreements, a consistent practice by the industry.

Posted here NJ: The Morgan Stanley Casino Bailout :

A high proportion of casino jobs are open to low-skill workers, and on any given day, many go unfilled. Yet in 1999 the city’s poverty rate was 23.6 percent, while the national rate was 11.3 percent; unemployment stood at 12.9 percent in 2000, compared to 5.8 percent in the nation.3 The city’s poverty rate is actually a bit higher than before the beginning of legalized gambling in 1978, when the city was in sharp economic decline,....

...the low-skill service jobs available in casinos or other industries may not provide enough income to escape poverty. Residents often noted that they or someone they knew held two or three casino jobs in order to make ends meet.

From Texas Republicans Got It Right About Slots!

Skyrocketing Crime

Sept. 2004 research showed casinos hiked violent crime 13%.

Everywhere video slot machines have been legalized, crime rates have skyrocketed, including aggravated assault, rape, robbery, larceny, burglary, auto theft, embezzlement, and fraud.

1st 3 years of gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey went from 50th in nation in per capita crime to 1st in the nation.

From Ohio Gambling Opposition

In Atlantic City, 25% of small businesses closed 3 years after casinos opened. Prior to casinos, the unemployment rate in Atlantic City was 30% higher than the rest of the state. 10 years later, it is 50% higher than the rest of the state.

Do Casinos Cause Crime?

In the midst of an economic crisis, the U.S. gambling industry continues to grow—and so does the debate over its connection to crime.

It’s a familiar, and sad, story: a 41-year-old housekeeper in Bangor, Maine, forged $40,000 in checks belonging to elderly people in the assisted-living home where she worked, then gambled it away at Hollywood Slots, a cavernous 1,000-slot-machine establishment that dominates one side of Bangor, an old, poor, church-spired New England town.

She pleaded guilty, blaming an addiction to gambling, and in 2008 received a three-year prison term.

But doesn’t Hollywood Slots deserve some blame? While mob-infested gambling largely belongs to another era, the nationwide proliferation of casinos continues to raise the question of whether such establishments create or enable desperate gambling addicts who break the law to support their habit.

The alleged link between casinos and crime, in fact, is bitterly debated across the country, particularly in financially stressed towns or states where lucrative gambling concessions provide needed revenue. A definitive resolution is unlikely any time soon, since attempts to scientifically prove (or disprove) the connection are usually trumped by moral, financial or political issues.

Meanwhile, the glitter of Las Vegas has spread to nearly every state. The United States has the dubious distinction of harboring the most casinos in the world—705, counting the 216 listed by the National Indian Gaming Association and the 489 represented by the American Gaming Association, the Washington lobby groups respectively for Indian and “commercial” casinos. France, the number-two country, has fewer than 200.

Las Vegas’s gold glitters in Washington, too. The spread of gambling casinos had Capitol Hill concerned about crime a few years ago, but the issue no longer excites much controversy—and that just may have something to do with the fact that the gambling lobby has become a powerful force in national politics. Congressional and presidential candidates alone received $28 million from gambling interests in the 2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Capitol Hill debate on gambling now is on whether to legalize it on the internet.

But at the local level the anti-gambling troops work hard to keep the casinos and crime issue alive. The check-forger story was publicized by CasinosNo, a Maine organization that battles against perennial proposals for new casinos in the state. The group also drew attention recently to the fact that Bangor’s crime rate jumped 26 per cent in the three years since the casino opened. In contrast, the group notes, two bigger Maine cities, Portland and Lewiston, experienced crime declines during that period.

“I don’t know if the crime rate increase is directly related to the casino,” says spokesman Dennis Bailey, “but it should be studied before we bring more slot machines to Maine.”

Next door in New Hampshire, Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, doesn’t feel more study is needed. “It’s a fact” that casinos bring crime, he says flatly. New Hampshire currently has no casinos, but it’s not for lack of trying. According to Rubens, gambling interests have spent millions of dollars in lobbying activities and advertising to try to get the legislature to legalize them.

As proof of his allegation about crime, Rubens cites the comprehensive national study, “Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs,” published in 2006 in The Review of Economics and Statistics, a prestigious academic journal produced by Harvard and MIT. Like the leaders of other grassroots anti-gambling groups around the country, Rubens considers it the ultimate scientific authority on the subject.

The study by economists Earl Grinols, now of Baylor University, and David Mustard, of the University of Georgia, examined crime rates in every county in the nation covering a period of 20 years — from 1977, just before the first casinos outside Nevada were built in Atlantic City, to 1996. It concluded that opening a casino led to local crime increases averaging eight percent. (Grinols says the 10-year gap between data collection and publication is “not uncommon” in academia and the data didn’t become less relevant during that period since the study was of basic behavior.)

Grinols and Mustard’s findings made news, but not surprisingly they failed to persuade anyone on the other side of the issue. While anti-gambling forces used the findings to promote their case (United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, that state’s chief anti-casino group, has numbers from the study flashing on its website’s home page), the American Gaming Association was notably unworried. “In our minds the issue has been settled,” says Holly Thomsen, the associaton’s communications director.

How has it been settled? Despite the critics’ allegations and the Grinols-Mustard study, Thomsen says that on this issue people have voted with their feet. “People are pretty happy” with casinos, she says. She adds in an email: “The fears people have about crime accompanying a casino coming into a community simply don’t materialize once the casinos are actually there. In countless gaming jurisdictions across the country, law enforcement officers actually working in the community and around the casinos say crime hasn’t gone up.”

That lack of fear, at least, can be documented. Despite the recession (or perhaps because of it), the casino industry—with its lure of easy riches—continues to spread across the U.S. Kansas legalized casinos in 2007. In 2008 Colorado extended casino hours and legalized more games, Missouri abolished the casino loss limit, and Maryland legalized slots parlors. Ohio approved four big casinos just last month.

The gross annual wager

The prospect of tax revenues and casino jobs smoothed the way. Casinos have become a big, big business. Ten years ago legal gambling — including casinos, state lotteries, and horse tracks — was about a $50-billion enterprise. Now, according to industry analyst Christensen Capital Advisors, the “gross annual wager” of the United States is almost $100 billion, far ahead of spending on movies, spectator sports and theme parks.

Casinos raked in the most money, according to the American Gaming Association: $63 billion in 2008 in 45 states, toting up commercial and Indian casinos and the racetrack-related and slots-dominated “racinos” (Maine’s Hollywood Slots is one of these). Fifty-five million adults visited a casino in 2008, the trade association says — a quarter of the adult population.

With those numbers, it’s easy to see why Washington has stayed out of the fray. “Nobody wants to take this issue on,” laments Rep. Frank Wolf, a conservative Virginia Republican. With both parties taking money from casino interests, he adds, “It’s a bipartisan problem.”

Ten years ago Wolf and other lawmakers opposed to casino expansion had more sway. Wolf was one of the moving forces behind the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, whose 1999 report stressed that “pathological” gamblers have a tendency to commit crimes to pay for their addiction. (Gambling addiction is a sickness, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and criminal activity is a symptom.) The report called for a ‘pause’ in casino expansion in order to provide more time for research. That didn’t happen, but the 2006 Grinols-Mustard study filled in some of the gaps.

In addition to documenting increased crime rates in counties where casinos had opened, the study found that nearby counties also felt the impact and that a casino didn’t just move crime from elsewhere toward the casino’s county but created it. Grinols and Mustard had examined the seven serious FBI “index” offenses: aggravated assault, robbery, murder, burglary, auto theft, larceny, and rape. All except murder showed a significant increase.

The 2006 study remains the most definitive yet, says John Kindt, a legal policy professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who publishes papers on the social costs of gambling. “There’s nothing that can touch it,” he says. Dennis Delay, an economist who researches gambling issues for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, adds: “The Grinols-Mustard study is probably state of the art.”

Other studies, though, suggest the link is arguable. University of Nevada at Reno professor Grant Stitt and his colleagues conducted federally financed research published in 2003 that compared crime-rate change in six “new casino” and six non-casino communities. Little difference was found. Stitt calls his own work the definitive one on the issue, with 19 academic papers resulting from it.

And pro-gambling forces argue that, statistically, reported crime increases around casinos are a result of bad number-crunching. In calculating the crime rate of a casino town, they say, the number of visitors to the casino should be added to the number of local residents, which Grinols and Mustard didn’t do. But if that’s done, the crime rate—the number of crimes in a given area divided by the population (generally expressed as crimes per 100,000 people)—usually drops significantly. This accurately gauges “the risk of being victimized” for both groups, says Douglas Walker, an economist at the College of Charleston.

Complicating the professorial part of this debate, though, and provoking finger-pointing about bias, some academics take money from the gambling industry (like Walker) and others are out front with their religious perspective (like Grinols and Mustard, both active in the Association of Christian Economists).

Then there’s the difficulty in singling out casinos as a factor in the overall crime picture. In Bangor, for example, law enforcement authorities and city officials attribute their rising crime rate to an increase in the number of methadone clinics as well as the worsening economy—not the local casino.

Grinols maintains, however, there’s no dispute that gambling causes crime. The only questions, he says, “are how big is the impact and can you get a good measurement.” Even the American Gaming Association agrees that gambling addiction is a social problem. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that a third of addicted gamblers had been arrested for a crime, compared to four percent of non-gamblers. A federally funded study by researchers at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas of people arrested for crimes in Las Vegas and Des Moines reported in 2004 that nearly a third of pathological gamblers “admitted having committed robbery in the previous year. Approximately 13 percent had assaulted someone for money.”

On the other hand, that study noted that addicted gamblers tend to be drug and alcohol abusers and often had been in trouble with the law before they became addicted to gambling—a picture that fits with the claim that casinos don’t directly cause crime.

The real issue, however, may not be the individual gambler’s addiction—but the government’s. “Most gambling policies in the U.S. are guided principally by the anticipated economic benefits,” says a 2006 New Mexico State University study on the impact of Indian gambling in that state. Kindt, the Illinois professor, argues that government has been “corrupted” by casino money.

Whenever casino opponents get discouraged as they contemplate this fat wallet and the industry’s widespread support, they look for inspiration to the long, arduous battle to reign in the tobacco industry.

“This is going to go the same way as smoking,” says Tom Grey, a retired Methodist minister who is spokesman and field director for the Washington, D.C.-based Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation.

Grey foresees lawsuits against gambling interests similar to the successful suits against tobacco companies for pushing cigarettes on consumers despite the companies’ knowledge that nicotine is addictive. Although he concedes that at present his group is having trouble raising money, he says the gambling industry has overextended itself like Napoleon invading Russia, and now “the Russian winter is setting in.”

He concludes: “They’re trapped now.”

Maybe so. But considering the industry’s continuing growth the odds do not appear to be in the opponents’ favor.

Lance Tapley is a freelance investigative reporter based in Maine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oregon: Gambling Addiction Programs Cut

With lottery profits down, Oregon will make deep cuts in gambling addict programs

Maybe you've seen the TV ad: Three women are in the ladies' room. One confides that she's kicked a gambling addiction by seeking treatment. Another woman eavesdrops, realizes she needs help, too, and asks, "Can I talk to you?"

The ad, paid for by the Oregon Lottery, has spurred more calls to the state's gambling help line.

But people who want help may need more luck than ever getting treatment.

Starting in April, the state will make deep cuts in the programs that provide treatment for gambling addicts. At least 265 people will be turned away, state budget records say.

The treatment and prevention programs get all their money from a 1 percent cut of lottery profits. But profits have fallen about 20 percent from their peak in 2008, driven largely by the bad economy and a 2009 smoking ban in bars and taverns. The lottery is projected to earn about $1 billion for 2009-11.

The drop in sales doesn't mean there are fewer problem gamblers. Good times or bad, experts say, addicts keep playing -- and losing.

"We should be redoubling our efforts, and instead we have to tread water just to stay afloat," says Paul Potter, who oversees gambling addiction treatment for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Potter says he will be forced to dole out $1.2 million less than the programs were counting on between now and July 2011, when the current state budget period ends.

Laura Idica knows what that would mean. She spent the past 10 months trying to break her habit of gambling on video machines, a habit that wrecked her family.

"I know where I'd be if I didn't get help," Idica says. "I'd be dead."

Rural counties take hit

On May 8 last year, Idica says, she went to a bluff overlooking the ocean at Yachats and peered over the edge. "Thirty feet up, sharp rocks and deep water below," she says. "It would have done the trick."

Her gambling habit had caused her to think about killing herself before. She had lived in Newport for 20 years, working lots of jobs, not staying anywhere too long. She suffered from depression and she drank too much.

Idica, 46, says her gambling problem started in full four years ago. She started with lottery scratch-off tickets, buying 20 at a time during her work breaks, sometimes blowing $100 a day. She moved on to the lottery's video games, which include poker and slot machine-type games, and she lost entire paychecks to the machines.

She had left her family broke and homeless. They felt they could do better without her.

Addicted gamblers often make deals with themselves. Idica paused while she made one. She'd just gotten a check for $250. She'd bet it all. If she lost, she'd jump. If she won, she'd quit while she was ahead.

She really would quit this time. Really.

Idica took her cash to a bar, doubled her money on video games and walked away. "I'd never done that before," she said.

But she hardly thought herself cured. She gave money to her 18-year-old son and went into gambling treatment the next day.

The treatment programs Idica and about 1,900 other Oregonians received last year are paid for with lottery money. The Legislature sets aside 1 percent of lottery profits to treat people regardless if they are hooked on the state's games, casinos or other forms of wagering.

Original budget estimates for 2009-11 had treatment and prevention programs getting about $11.3 million. Falling lottery profits and budget changes have left Potter's office with $9.4 million.

Oregon Lottery facts
Half of lottery profits from video games come from about 10 percent of its players, who lose $500 or more every month.

76 percent of people seeking help for gambling addiction say lottery retailers are the primary places they play.

More than 74,000 Oregonians meet the definitions of problem or pathological gamblers. About 1,800 got help through state-financed programs last year.

More than one-third of problem gamblers say they've committed illegal acts to get gambling money.

Nearly half of problem gamblers have considered killing themselves and 7 percent have attempted suicide.

Sources: Oregon Lottery, Oregon Department of Human Services

Potter says he held back on some spending in anticipation of falling lottery profits but now has to cut. The reductions will be split about evenly between prevention programs and treatment and counseling. Most treatment is outpatient counseling through local agencies and nonprofits. The 24-hour gamblers' help line will have a smaller staff but won't reduce hours.

The state this year added $400,000 to beef up prevention and treatment programs in rural counties, where it's often difficult to provide services. Those counties, depending on their size, will see the funding cut by 33 percent to 60 percent next year.

Kimberly Lindsay is executive director of Community Counseling Solutions, a mental health agency serving Morrow, Wheeler, Grant and Gilliam counties. She says the state money had allowed her group to develop services for problem gamblers and get the word out that someone in the community could help.

"Now that's all caved in," she says.

In their February session, lawmakers insulated some state programs dependent on the lottery, including the agency that recruits and subsidizes movie productions.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, says lawmakers protected lottery-dependent programs that need to make debt payments or that show an ability to create jobs. They knew other programs would be hurt by falling lottery profits, he says.

"We're addicted to this money," Courtney says. "And it's a serious problem that we've attached critical programs to it."

"It's just not enough"

"The lottery is raking in millions," Idica says, "and they're trying to sell us they don't have the money to help the people who really need it, the people hooked on their games. It's just not right."

Idica says she struggled in her first counseling program: It helped her deal with her drinking problem, but she was still gambling at night. She kept thinking about killing herself, kept thinking about the cliff, the deep water, the rocks.

She ended up in the only state-funded residential program for gambling addicts, Bridgeway Recovery Services Inc. in Salem.

Bridgeway can handle up to 11 gambling addicts. After the cuts, that number will fall to two to four people.

Tim Murphy, Bridgeway's executive director, says Oregon deserves credit for dedicating lottery profits to help addicted gamblers.

"We've seen an increase in people who need our services," Murphy says. "While the 1 percent is something, it's just not enough for the problems created by pathological gambling."

Idica left Bridgeway on March 15 after 63 days in treatment. She says she's happy -- and aware she's only one poor decision from falling back into her addiction. But the program, she says, has given her a circle of people she can call on to help.

She spoke about her experiences at Bridgeway's offices. Near the end of a recent interview at Bridgeway's office, she leaned forward and pointed to the reporter's notebook.

"I know I need to tell you the sad story," she says. "But don't forget the hope. It gets hopeful. I hope to lead a happy life."

She paused. "I am going to lead a happy life."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Beware: 'Machine Zone' Ahead

Beware: 'Machine Zone' Ahead

All forms of gambling are not created equal. Marylanders should take this into account when deciding how to vote in November's referendum on slots.

My research as a social anthropologist has been focused on a dramatic turn that has taken place in recent decades from social forms of gambling played at tables to asocial forms played alone at video terminals. If voters endorse the proposal to alter Maryland's constitution to allow slot machines at racetracks, residents will be exposed to devices that have been carefully designed to make them lose as much as possible.

It's important for voters to understand how these machines work. Every feature of a slot machine -- its mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics -- is calibrated to increase a gambler's "time on device" and to encourage "play to extinction," which is industry jargon for playing until all your money is gone. The machines have evolved from handles and reels to buttons and screens, from coins to credit cards, from a few games a minute to hundreds. Inside, complicated algorithms perform a high-tech version of "loading the dice" -- deceptions no self-respecting casino would ever allow in table gambling. The machines are designed to exploit aspects of human psychology, and they do it well. In the eyes of the gaming industry, this may look like success, but it comes at great expense for gamblers.

The rise in slots gambling, fueled in large part by these technological developments, has led to much higher rates of gambling addiction. This is evident at Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Las Vegas, where the vast majority of participants are machine gamblers. These gamblers are motivated more by a need to escape reality than any desire for entertainment and excitement. Without the presence of social elements such as other players or a live dealer, they are able to exit the world and enter a state where everything fades away. Slot machines so completely concentrate players' attention on a series of game events that anything troubling about their life situations -- physically, emotionally or socially -- gets blotted out. Players enter what's known as the "machine zone," where even winning stops mattering; in fact, it can be unwelcome because it interrupts the flow of play. Such players only stop when their credits are consumed.

Discussion of problem gambling typically focuses on individual gamblers and their "predisposition" to addiction. This focus elides the fact that some activities are more addictive than others. The aim of the gambling industry is to increase its bottom line, not to create addicts. But in effect, its efforts to make slot machines so effective at extracting money from people yields a product that, for all intents and purposes, approaches every player as a potential addict -- in other words, someone who won't stop playing until his or her means are depleted.

The pro-slots contingent promises increased money for the state, but that money can't be guaranteed. It is unclear how much people will spend on gambling, especially with the weakening economy. What revenue slot machines do generate comes not from entertaining but exploiting people. Should the government, whose role is to protect its citizens, become a partner in this ethically dubious enterprise? Marylanders should think twice before allowing slots in their state.

-- Natasha Dow Schüll

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SLOTS = Same Everywhere

From our friends to the north, the Granite State:

Maine Calls To Gambling Hotline Spike 10 Times Since Casino Opening

New Hampshire casino promoters claim that gambling addiction would not increase if casinos were legalized here. The Bangor Daily News reports the Maine experience to be otherwise.

Since the opening of Bangor's Hollywood Slots in 2005, calls from Mainers to the National Council on Problem Gambling hotline have increased by over ten times ... from 118 in 2004 to 1,263 in 2009. "I don't know how anyone can say there is not a gambling problem here; of course there is a problem," says Lee Thompson, who heads the Maine affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

New Hampshire casino promoters also claim that video slots are no different than the types of gambling already present in New Hampshire. Steve Burton, who runs West Virginia's gambling addiction treatment program, widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the country, testified otherwise.

This past Tuesday (3/16/2010), Mr. Burton, who is required by West Virginia state law to take no position on gambling, pro or con, told the Governor's Gaming Study Commission:

· 80% of his intake calls are from gamblers identifying video slot machines as their primary gambling problem, not horse, racing, bingo, or lottery.

· Only 10% of problem gamblers ever make an effort to ask for help from any type of treatment program. Those who do first hit "rock bottom." (Rock bottom usually means bankruptcy, money crimes, family breakdown.)

· Asked by a commissioner if slot machine accessibility (proximity) is an issue: "Absolutely."

· Asked if there will be added social costs: "Yes, there is no disagreement about that."

If the state were to adopt
SB489, the Senate's six-casino saturation gambling plan, 10,000 additional New Hampshire residents would become gambling addicts.

The Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre found that 1-in-8 Ontario adults are negatively affected from someone else's gambling problems, usually taking form as being manipulated into lending money or not having money repaid.

Reasons we oppose SB489.

23 Reasons we oppose any type of slot casino anywhere in our state

Downsizing Casinos

From our friends in the Granite State:

U.S. Gambling Industry Going Rapidly Downscale

This Philadelphia Inquirer story about the Parx racetrack casino should be a huge wakeup call for those who think New Hampshire casinos will bring high rollers and big bucks into our economy.

Parx president Dave Jonas is surprised about the demographics of his gambling customers and how rapidly the gambling industry has downscaled. The typical Parx gambler is a low-roller who lives within 20 miles and drops $25 or $30 into the slots three or four times a week. Customers "come in, grab a hot dog or maybe a chicken sandwich," gamble three hours, "then go home and sleep in their own bed," says Jonas.

The dark side is that these local gamblers are spending more time in the casino than they are with their families and have made losing money in slot machines their primary non-work activity. Casinos can profit today only by sucking their working class customers deeper into debt and turning them into gambling addicts.

"Casinos like Parx only exist because government is a partner," says Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling. "Any other business with such predatory practices would be shut down immediately. " New Hampshire will not strengthen our economy by weakening our citizens.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The David-and-Goliath Story

For casino opponents, an unlikely ace in the hole
Small-town activist presses fight against industry

“If there’s a David-and-Goliath story, this is it,’’ said Kathleen Conley Norbut of Monson, an anticasino activist.

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Michael Levenson

Her desk is her kitchen table. She cajoles legislators on the phone while folding laundry. At night, she works in her pajamas.

Kathleen Conley Norbut, a fast-talking 49-year-old mother, former selectwoman, and mental health counselor from Monson, has become the improbable public face of the opposition to expanded gambling, as founder of the group United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.

From that perch, she is trying to stop a multibillion-dollar casino industry eager to break into Massachusetts, an army of well-paid lobbyists pushing the cause, and a growing number of lawmakers who believe gambling will bring much-needed jobs and economic development.

“If there’s a David-and-Goliath story, this is it, because that industry is predatory,’’ Norbut said in an interview. “They’ve got deep, deep pockets behind them. I’m small peanuts. I care about small businesses. I care about my communities.’’

Norbut is confident, though she knows what she is up against.

In the weeks ahead, as House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo readies his bill to license two casinos and slot machines at the state’s four racetracks, Norbut — who already spends 30 hours a week fighting casinos — plans to step up her campaign, with a focus on pushing for a new independent review of the costs and benefits of expanded gambling. DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, and Governor Deval Patrick all support casinos, though Murray and Patrick say they oppose slots.

“I’m not nervous or worried,’’ Norbut said. “I actually feel like the little people are being heard a little more, and I’m very excited about that.’’

She has made her presence felt. Since forming United to Stop Slots on the Fourth of July last year, Norbut has successfully pushed the state Democratic Party to adopt a resolution opposing slot machines, helped persuade the governor to endorse her call for a new economic analysis of gambling, and organized an anticasino rally at Faneuil Hall with former governor Michael S. Dukakis.

“She certainly has made an impact,’’ said state Representative Daniel E. Bosley, a North Adams Democrat and a leading casino opponent in the Legislature. “It’s hard to find people on both sides who aren’t reactionary. They have a moral objection to slots, or they’re very libertarian. She really has done her homework, and is really energetic.’’

In some ways, Norbut, who has not been active in prior fights over gambling, is an unlikely figure in the casino debate. She has no personal story of a family member addicted to gambling, nor moral qualms about gambling. She first got involved in the issue in 2007, she said, when the operators of Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut proposed building a casino in Palmer, which borders Monson, the town 30 minutes east of Springfield, where she has lived for 23 years and was serving on the Board of Selectmen. Norbut said she was concerned the casino would ruin the town’s rural character, drive up crime and addiction, and strain local services.

“I didn’t choose the cause,’’ Norbut said. “I really feel like this cause chose me to be the champion. I wasn’t looking for a hobby. I’m married. I have a 13-year-old. I have elderly parents. I have a career. It started by caring about the community.’’

As she began researching the issue, she became convinced that a casino was bad not only for Monson, but for the state because, she believes, casinos cannibalize other businesses and burden taxpayers with additional social and economic costs.

“It’s long-term economic drain,’’ Norbut said.

Supporters of expanded gaming counter that the state is missing out on thousands of jobs and millions of dollars as gamblers flock to out-of-state casinos.

The last time casinos were debated, in 2007, the group, led by residents concerned about a proposed casino in Middleborough, helped organize the opposition. Bosley, state Senator Susan C. Tucker, and then-House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi helped galvanize opponents in the State House.

This year, prospects for a Middleborough casino have faded, Bosley and Tucker are preparing to leave the Legislature, and DiMasi, a powerful casino foe, has been replaced by DeLeo, a longtime supporter of expanded gambling whose district includes two struggling racetracks.

The changes have thrust Norbut into a newly prominent role in the ranks of the opposition, helping lead a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that includes partners such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, a socially conservative group.

In December, she and other members of the organization met with the governor for an hour. Afterward, Patrick sent a letter to DeLeo and Murray encouraging them to meet with United to Stop Slots and supporting Norbut’s call for a new economic analysis of gambling, which the state last conducted when the governor proposed licensing three casinos in 2007.

“She is a really thoughtful, energetic, smart organizer with a great head and a great heart,’’ said Patrick, who first met Norbut when she volunteered on his 2006 campaign.

She can also be polarizing. In a private briefing with lawmakers last week, Norbut hotly debated state Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, a Revere Democrat and ardent supporter of slot machines whose district includes Wonderland Greyhound Park.

“We’ve clashed heads, and the impression I get from her is that she’s not very fond of me,’’ Reinstein said. “I obviously disagree with a large percentage of what she says, and I feel like their side is using absolute fear tactics when it comes to this issue, and that’s not fair.’’

Norbut said it is the pro-casino crowd that has used fear to push its agenda.

“I’ve had retired police officers tell me to watch my back; I’ve had verbal threats from a top AFL-CIO official,’’ Norbut said. “Maybe it was a warning. He said, ‘If you ever run for office again, we’ll remember.’ ’’

“It’s not easy,’’ Norbut added. “I’m not a thick-skinned person.’’

Norbut, the third of six children of a Marine who fought in Iwo Jima, is tough, however. She and her husband, a carpenter, lived in a tent for six months while they cleared trees and built their home from scratch.

This fight, she says, will also require a lot of heavy lifting, but she has no intention of giving up.

“I have no issue with anyone who wants to get on a bus or a plane and go and do their thing,’’ she said, referring to gamblers traveling to casinos. “But it becomes my business when it impacts my property tax, my community, and the society that my child is going to live in.’’

Join us! At United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts. Add your name to the mailing list, sign the Petition for an Independent Cost Benefit Analysis and consider making a donation.

Icahn gobbles up distressed casinos

Atlantic City's Tropicana sale to Icahn done deal


It took more than two years, nearly $12 million in fees to lawyers and others and a billionaire's bargain-basement bid, but the Tropicana Casino and Resort has been salvaged by its sale to Carl Icahn.

The $200 million deal completed Monday marks the activist investor's return to Atlantic City, the nation's second-largest gambling market, and ends one of the most tortured casino sales in U.S. history.

Icahn bought the casino out of bankruptcy for 80 percent less than what it was expected to fetch before the recession hit.

The relief inside the casino's executive offices was palpable when a lawyer confirmed that the final papers had been signed and money wired to complete the purchase.

"I'm thrilled," said Mark Giannantonio, who will stay president under Icahn's ownership. "I don't think anyone expected it to take 27 months."

In a prepared statement, Icahn acknowledged the challenges facing Atlantic City from slot machines -- and soon, table games -- in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York.

"There will undoubtedly be tough sledding ahead for Atlantic City, especially in light of the increasing competition from neighboring states," Icahn said. "However, I believe that Atlantic City, with its beautiful beaches, can again become a premier destination resort."

For that to happen, casinos must invest not only in their own resorts but also in events to draw gamblers from competing states, he said.

Last year, the Tropicana, which opened in 1981, took in $356.7 million, ranking it seventh among Atlantic City's 11 casinos.

New Jersey casino regulators stripped the Tropicana's former owners of their casino license in December 2007, citing less than a year of poor performance including nearly 1,000 layoffs that left the gambling hall dirty and understaffed.

Giannantonio said bad publicity that emerged from weeks of licensing hearings before the state Casino Control Commission hurt the Tropicana badly.

"We were like the dead dog on the side of the road, getting ready to get kicked," he said.

Gary Stein, the retired state Supreme Court Justice who state regulators say was paid more than $900,000 to oversee the sale process, said the immediate aftermath of losing its license left the Tropicana in a precarious position.

"The casino was concerned about making payroll," he said.

Things have improved considerably since then, Stein said. In January 2008, the casino had $19 million in cash, aside from "cash cage," or what it used on the casino floor to pay winning bets. Monday morning, that figure had swollen to $58 million.

The Tropicana's work force is hovering around 3,000, roughly what it was at the time it lost its license, Giannantonio said.

The license denial led to nearly two years of false starts and dead-ends in the effort to attract a buyer. When a deal to sell the Tropicana to Baltimore-based Cordish Company fell through, the former owner of the Sands Casino Hotel stepped in as part of a drive to scoop up distressed casino properties at cut-rate prices.

In January, Icahn received regulatory approval to take control of nine Tropicana Entertainment LLC casinos in Nevada, Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi as they emerged from a separate bankruptcy.

He also bought the unfinished Fontainebleau Las Vegas casino resort on the strip earlier this year.

And last December, Icahn bought the first-lien debt in Trump Entertainment Resorts' three Atlantic City casinos. Now, he and banker Andy Beal are battling a group that includes Donald Trump to become the owners when that company emerges from bankruptcy.

Giannantonio said the casino does not plan a major expansion, preferring to update "areas that look dated and addressing some of our hotel room product."

MGM Mirage and Dubai

MGM Mirage announces successful amendment and extension transaction

MGM Mirage announced that lenders representing approximately $4.37 billion of the outstanding commitments under its $5.55 billion senior bank credit facility have entered into an amendment agreement which, subject to certain conditions, will extend the maturity of a portion of the credit facility from October 3, 2011 to February 21, 2014.

Bank of America, N.A. is the administrative agent for the Restated Loan Agreement. The joint lead arrangers for the Restated Loan Agreement are Banc of America Securities LLC, RBS Securities, Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Barclays Capital, BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Citibank North America, Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Bank of Scotland Plc, Commerzbank, Wachovia Bank, National Association, Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Inc. and UBS Securities LLC.

MGM MIRAGE, one of the world's leading and most respected companies with significant holdings in gaming, hospitality and entertainment, owns and operates 15 properties located in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan, and has 50% investments in five other properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois and Macau. One of those investments - CityCenter - is also managed by MGM MIRAGE. CityCenter, an unprecedented urban metropolis on the Las Vegas Strip with Gold and Silver LEED certifications, is a joint venture between MGM MIRAGE and Infinity World Development Corp, a subsidiary of Dubai World. CityCenter features ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas; Veer Towers, and Crystals retail and entertainment district. MGM MIRAGE Hospitality has entered into management agreements for casino and non-casino resorts throughout the world.

Ho, MGM Deny Organized Crime Connection

Asian casino magnate Stanley Ho denies organized crime ties that NJ casino regulators assert

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Asian casino magnate Stanley Ho denied Thursday that he has ties to Chinese organized crime gangs.

His denial via a spokeswoman came a day after New Jersey gambling regulators released a report that accused Ho of letting gangs operate and prosper inside his casinos.

MGM Mirage decided to sell its 50 percent interest in Atlantic City's top casino after the state forced it to choose between New Jersey and the lucrative Chinese gambling market.

MGM Mirage has a partnership with Ho's daughter in a Macau casino, and New Jersey casino law requires companies seeking gambling licenses to prove they have no associations with "notorious or unsavory persons."

MGM Mirage says it disagrees with the New Jersey gaming enforcement division, and says it has "a spotless operating record at MGM Grand Macau."

A spokeswoman for Ho said Thursday he denies having any links to Chinese gangs, called triads.

Janet Wong said the elder Ho had not seen the report, and considers it a matter to be dealt with by MGM Mirage and casino regulators.

"But his position on the record is clear that there is absolutely no foundation in any suggestion that he is associated with organized crime or triads," Wong said
in an e-mail.

Pansy Ho declined comment Thursday through a spokeswoman.

MGM Mirage said Thursday the report shows no wrongdoing on the part of Pansy Ho.

"Stanley Ho was not our partner. He had no role in the (joint venture)," said spokesman Alan Feldman. "The report contained no such allegations about our partner, Pansy Ho."

The chain of events that led MGM Mirage to agree to exit the second-largest U.S. gambling market began last May when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement first told MGM Mirage that Pansy Ho was an "unsuitable" business partner who remains dependent on her father for money and power.

"We entered into the agreement because the DGE gave us one of two choices: either disassociate with Pansy or leave New Jersey," Feldman said. "We made the decision that we thought was in the best interests of our company and its shareholders."

The deal approved Wednesday by the state Casino Control Commission places MGM Mirage's share in the Borgata into a divestment trust. It must be sold within 30 months.

The report by the gaming enforcement division, which was completed in May but not publicly released until Wednesday, cited numerous examples of what it considers to be ties between Stanley Ho and criminal gangs. They include:

_ A 1988 report by the U.S. Department of Justice that "noted Stanley Ho's associations with Asian organized crime."

_ A 1992 United States Senate committee investigation that found that Stanley Ho associated with individuals and businesses who were organized crime members;

_ A March 2003 e-mail from a private investigation firm hired by MGM Mirage that found that "Stanley Ho was linked closely to the two major triads operating in Macau, the 14K and Sun Yee On." The same report alleged Stanley Ho has "strong ties" to North Korea, is partners in a casino there, and told Russian officials in January 2003 that he could "facilitate the movement of Saddam Hussein, his family and other senior Iraqi leaders to North Korea."

_ A 2007 report from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs noting "Stanley Ho's association with the organized crime groups that operate in his casinos' VIP rooms.

From WSJ
Gambling revenues in Atlantic City declined 16% in February from a year ago after hitting their lowest point in more than a decade. The Borgata, which had been outperforming the market previously, had a particularly poor month. Its revenue declined 21%.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tax Subsidy for Casino

For every $1 in tax revenue that gambling provides, the cost to taxpayers is $3, but most legislators deny or carefully conceal those costs.
Not so in New Mexico where a tax subsidy has been approved by the legislature.

You pay whether you play or not

Legislation that would allow the imposition of a new gross receipts tax in New Mexico’s Lincoln County has been signed into law. Revenues from the potential tax would finance a casino tax credit for the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino. In addition, a special election costing the county $25,000 must now be held to approve the casino tax credit.

The casino tax credit through the new gross receipts tax was the regular legislative session's second effort at reducing the gambling tax for the racino owned by RD Hubbard. A first attempt that would have had state coffers provide a tax break failed.

The act allows the credit to be sought by racetracks in New Mexico that have a net win (wagering minus winnings) of less than $15 million. Currently only the Ruidoso Downs racino would fit that that requirement.

Officials with the Ruidoso Downs Race Track & Casino have threatened to move to the Las Cruces area without "tax parity" with nearby tribal casinos.

Why would government at any level subsidize a business based on pushing citizens into even deeper debt, especially since much of the money being lost comes largely from Social Security, unemployment and other government support? Taxpayers are already paying for these government programs that make up a large source of profits for the gambling operators and now they are being asked to subsidize the same business by paying more in taxes.

You pay whether you play or not. And you are paying a lot.

Track bill signed

Legislation authorizes county to set an election to raise the gross receipts tax

The unknowns: whether county will approve an election, and when that possible election would be held

Legislation that would allow the imposition of a new gross receipts tax in Lincoln County has been signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson.

The County Business Retention Gross Receipts Tax, previously approved by the New Mexico House and Senate, allows the Lincoln County Commission to set a referendum for county residents. Should it vote to do so, the commission would set an election date and a gross receipts tax rate.

Revenues from the potential tax would finance a gaming tax credit for the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino.

The question could go to voters as soon as September.

"In order to impose the gross receipts tax on January 1, you have to get the results of the election before the end of September," said Lincoln County Manager Tom Stewart. "There are some big rubs that have to do with timing."

In a letter to New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Rick Homans, Stewart said time will be extremely short to comply with the new act's requirements.

"I assume that like other GRT impositions, the results of the required special election and approved ordinance will need to be forwarded to taxation and revenue by the end of September 2010," Stewart wrote. "This being the case, and understanding that the ordinance and resolution calling for the election must be completed 75 days prior to the election (potentially end of June 2010), could you please advise as to when the tax and revenue model ordinance, that must be adopted verbatim, will be complete?"
Stewart said he needs both the language for the required ordinance and resolution setting the election date and the ballot question's language.

A special election would cost the county $25,000, according to Stewart.

Including the question in the Nov. 2 general election would make July 1, 2011, the soonest the tax could go into effect.

The maximum allowed rate would be one-fourth of one percent, in increments of one-sixteenth of a percent.

The gaming tax credit through the new gross receipts tax was the regular legislative session's second effort at reducing the gaming tax for the racino owned by RD Hubbard. A first attempt that would have had state coffers provide a tax break failed.

The act allows the credit to be sought by racetracks in New Mexico that have a net win (wagering minus winnings) of less than $15 million. Currently only the Ruidoso Downs racino would fit that that requirement, according to a fiscal impact report prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee.

Officials with the Ruidoso Downs Race Track & Casino have threatened to move to the Las Cruces area without "tax parity" with nearby tribal casinos.

The gaming tax credit would be limited to $750,000 a year. If the new gross receipts tax revenues fail to produce $750,000, the credit would accordingly be reduced.

If the tax produced more than $750,000 in a year, the excess revenues could be used by the county for a public post-secondary educational institution in the county, promotion or administration of the county, or economic development planning.

The tax would end in five years, or earlier if county commission so votes.

A cosponsor of the measure, Rep. Zach Cook (R-Ruidoso), had said imposing the tax would be decided locally.

"They (the voters) would say if they want to."

The successful legislation had seen massive lobbying during the second half of the 30-day legislative session that wrapped up Feb. 18.

The measure's fiscal impact report estimated that imposing the minimum tax rates of one-sixteenth or one-eighth of one percent would not generate enough revenue for the Ruidoso Downs Race Track & Casino to take full advantage of the credit. The other two options would be a three-sixteenth or one-quarter of one percent gross receipts tax.

Now the Symbol of Phony Prosperity

From our friends at Stop Predatory Gambling:

Over the weekend there was a news story about the Bethlehem (PA) casino, built on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel- once a symbol of America’s industrial might.

It was supposed to be a “destination resort casino” yet they opened the casino but never even finished building the conference center, mall and hotel where all the supposed jobs were to be created.

The phrase “resort casino” is nothing more than a political frame to artificially inflate public support for the scheme and veil the most predatory business model in America today.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. seeking to sell Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM Las Vegas Sands Corp. is seeking to sell its Bethlehem casino, only nine months after its opening, according to a person with direct knowledge of high-level discussions.

The company's top management has been disappointed with the facility's financial returns and would rather focus its efforts in Asia, where the company is developing megaresorts in Singapore and Macau, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Las Vegas Sands Corp. is hoping to sell the South Side slots parlor before possibly being required by the state to complete the property's partially finished hotel, mall and conference center, the source said.

Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese declined Friday to discuss the potential for a sale but said the company is hopeful for better financial returns from Bethlehem.

"The company's focus right now is to get the property to perform better," Reese said. "We're in the process of initiating some new marketing programs and looking forward to getting table games and overall working to improve the performance of the property."

Las Vegas Sands released its 2009 fourth-quarter report last week, which showed Sands Bethlehem with an operating loss of $2.1 million on revenue of $57.5 million. Company President and Chief Operational Officer Michael Leven, during a conference call on the report, said the company was somewhat disappointed in Bethlehem's numbers but it still had high hopes for the site's potential. Most of the conference call focused on the company's projects in Asia.

Sands Bethlehem President Robert DeSalvio on Friday declined to add to Reese's comments.

Mayor says he's unaware of any sale intentions

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan said he was unaware of any sale discussions, though city council President Robert Donchez said he had heard rumors.

"I would be disappointed if the Sands sells," Donchez said. "They've been a good corporate citizen; they've worked with many organizations in the community."

With its close access to New York and New Jersey customers and its $743 million price tag -- the highest for a Pennsylvania casino -- Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem had expected to be a major success among Pennsylvania casinos. But things haven't gone according to plan for the casino. The property's hotel, mall and conference center had been scheduled to open with the casino May 22, but construction on the three amenities stopped in October 2008 and hasn't resumed.

Sands also had planned to add 2,000 slot machines to its 3,000-machine offering in November but instead added only another 250. Company officials had said the allowance of table games at Pennsylvania casinos would restart, and possibly expand, the hotel, mall and conference center projects, but Leven said Sands would wait until the end of the year before even considering resuming those projects. Sands needs about $100 million to finish the 300-room hotel, 200,000-square-foot mall and 46,000-square-foot conference center.

Casino hotel completion 'critically important'

Callahan asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board earlier this month to make the casino's license renewal contingent upon completing the hotel, mall and conference center. Bethlehem City Council is scheduled to consider a resolution supporting Callahan's request Tuesday.

"If they were to sell, it would be critically important that whoever bought it complete the project," Donchez said. "It's just critically important that the hotel become completed and that project to become more viable than it is now."

Gaming control board spokesman Richard McGarvey said Las Vegas Sands would have to file an application with the board to transfer ownership, which the company has not done. The board would investigate the new owners and hold a public hearing to rule on any transfer, he said.

Rivers Casino outside of Pittsburgh and Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack both have transferred ownership, McGarvey said.

Every casino keeps records of payback rates

Every casino keeps records of payback rates

QUESTION: When I asked a slot attendant what percentage quarter machines were returning, she said the casino keeps no records on paybacks for any of its machines. Can this be true? -- Charlie O.

ANSWER: Her answer is pure poppycock. Some casinos are not required by their state to release information on slot machine percentage paybacks. In other states, it's easy to find out the average payback percentage on all slot machines in an individual casino. But to say that the casino keeps no records of paybacks for various categories of machines is simply bunk. Every slot machine and accounting system used by the casino contains the data needed to make that calculation.

Don’t bet on Mass. gambling, Church says

Don’t bet on Mass. gambling, Church says

BRAINTREE -- The Catholic Church in Massachusetts is adding its voice to those who say that expanded gambling is a poor bet for the commonwealth.

While several state politicians are again lining up to support legalizing casino gambling on grounds that it will generate revenue for the state and create jobs, opponents argue that casinos exploit the poor, lead to more crime, and increase unemployment.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts, affirmed the state’s bishops’ opposition to the proposed expansion of legalized gambling during Oct. 2009 testimony to a legislative committee on Beacon Hill.

Addressing a legislative committee, MCC Executive Director Edward Saunders quoted a recent statement by the state’s bishops which says “in gambling, especially in casinos and high stake lotteries, there are increased dangers and abuses that warrant vigilance and concern. There is no doubt that gambling can victimize and often surpass ‘legitimate recreation.’ ... [C]asinos and the authorization for additional slot machines will raise gambling to a new level in our commonwealth. In addition, these can also encourage addictive gambling.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, while gambling can be a legitimate form of recreation, all types of gambling “become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) has recently expressed his support for the creation of casinos in Massachusetts and the installation of slot machines at state racetracks. Seth Gitell, a spokesman for DeLeo, said the speaker hopes to introduce a bill within the next two or three weeks.

DeLeo has two racetracks in his district -- Suffolk Downs in East Boston and Wonderland in Revere.

Suffolk Downs, a horse track, offers live races, but Wonderland features only simulcast greyhound racing after Massachusetts voters opted to ban live dog racing as of Jan. 1.

Developers are discussing a hotel, condos, and a commercial office building for the Wonderland area. A casino at Suffolk Downs is also being proposed. Other casinos are also reportedly being proposed in Middleborough, Palmer and Wrentham.

Heather Johnson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Deval Patrick, said the governor favors “destination, resort-style” casinos but opposes racinos -- racetracks that incorporate slot machines.

Gov. Patrick proposed a plan for casinos in 2007, but it was squashed by former speaker Salvatore DeMasi.

State Senate President Therese Murray also supports the resort-style casinos favored by Gov. Patrick, said her spokesman, David Falcone.

“It’s not just about gambling,” Falcone told The Pilot March 9. “It involves shops, restaurants, and retail -- things that, in terms of jobs, you get a lot more bang for the buck.”

However, while Saunders acknowledges that casinos would create short-term construction jobs, he says that the industry would have long-term negative effects on the state’s job climate.

He says casinos will harm local businesses such as restaurants with the lure of free food and hire already-trained workers from Connecticut, a state that has two destination casinos.

Saunders, along with MCC Public Policy Coordinator Kathy Davis, said the Church opposes the bill on other social grounds as well.

The bill will allow for “predatory gambling,” which Davis says is common with slot machines -- the main source of profit for casinos.

“They prey on human weakness for profit,” Davis said. “Players get a high when they’re playing. Everything is designed so scientifically, to draw players in and keep them there till their money is gone.”

Davis said that slot addiction can result in a rise in domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, bankruptcy and home foreclosures.

“The whole family structure begins to fall apart,” Saunders said. “It’s the beginning of a downhill slide.”

In his Beacon Hill testimony, Saunders cited the United States International Gambling Report Series, a series of academic and government reports, which says that gambling costs taxpayers three dollars in social welfare expenditures for every dollar in revenue generated. Citing the same series, he also said that in areas with casinos, personal bankruptcies rose from 18 to 42 percent, the number of addicts doubled, and crime increased by 10 percent.

DeLeo acknowledged that gambling carries social ramifications in a statement submitted to The Pilot, promising to devote a portion of revenue generated from legalized gambling to addiction treatment programs.

Attorney General Martha Coakley has expressed concern over the proposed gambling expansion, calling for tougher laws against money laundering, organized crime, and wiretapping before Massachusetts legalizes casino gambling.

Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, and a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence, said that this issue differs from social gambling like office sports pools or charity bingo.

He also said that casino gambling violates the Great Commandment -- “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Casino ownership is about loving yourself more than your neighbor because its business practices are based on greed, deceit, and exploitation pushed on our neighbors,” he said.

“This is the only product or service where the people who own it and promote it don’t use it. What’s more predatory than that?” he added. “It’s going to push people into deeper poverty and it’s going to only worsen state budget deficits. The only winners are the people who own the casinos.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

70% Oppose CT Gambling Expansion

The poll results below are consistent with previous polls in Massachusetts by sources other than Clyde. It would seem that as residents develop a greater understanding of the negative impacts and the taxpayers' costs of gambling, they oppose subsidizing already wealthy investors and sending the money out of state or out of the country, after degrading surrounding communities.

Please consider reviewing the information and reports available on the United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts web site. The Connecticut report prepared by Spectrum Gaming Group is available on the Resource Page.

Keno, tolls opposed in poll

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal to raise money by broadening legalized gambling with electronic Keno games in bars, restaurants and convenience stores is overwhelmingly opposed in a new poll, 70 percent to 27 percent.

A Quinnipiac University poll released today found opposition to Keno across all demographic groups, a finding likely to give legislators pause as they weigh relying on more gambling for new revenue.

"Voters disagree with Gov. Jodi Rell on Keno. They don't want to see an expansion of gambling," said Douglas Schwartz, the poll's director.

Restoring highway tolls was not as unpopular, opposed by 56 percent and favored by 40 percent. Legislation to restore tolls is considered unlikely to pass this year.

The Sunday sales of alcohol in package stores was supported, 56 percent to 39 percent. But a bill to allow package stores to open on Sunday already has died in committee in the face of heavy opposition by package store owners.

While the poll found support for Sunday sales, residents are opposed to allowing grocery stores to sell liquor and wine, 52 percent to 45 percent. Grocery stores now can sell beer.

"Of three proposals to raise revenue for the Connecticut state budget, only Sunday liquor sales wins popular support, although the bill recently died in a legislative committee," Schwartz said.

The poll is based on a telephone survey of 1,451 self-identified registered voters from March 9 to 15. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Texas Gambling Opposition

Texas gaming supporters gambling on new inroads with 2011 Legislature

AUSTIN -- Gaming supporters are gearing up to make another run at expanding gambling in Texas, this time hoping for a more favorable reception as they seek to convince lawmakers that gambling-generated tax revenue could help shrink a projected budget shortfall of at least $11 billion.

But they will apparently get a cold shoulder from the governor's office -- whether the occupant is Republican incumbent Rick Perry or his Democratic challenger, Bill White.

"The governor does not support expanding the footprint of gambling," Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said Monday.

White, who hopes to unseat Perry in the November election, has also expressed opposition to gambling. "No, I don't think that the state of Texas should be promoting gambling and a something-for-nothing mentality," the former Houston mayor told an interviewer recently.

No Ho's in the Borgata

No Ho's in the Borgata
Family to sell 50% stake

In New Jersey, it's no's before Ho's.

MGM Mirage is selling its stake in the posh Atlantic City Borgata and leaving the state after the New Jersey Casino Control Commission ordered the company to give up its 50 percent stake in the casino or break away from its profitable casino partnership in Macau with members of the wealthy Ho family of Hong Kong.

State casino regulators claimed in an investigative report yesterday that the patriarch of the family, Stanley Ho, had links to organized crime elements in Macau.

His daughter, Pansy Ho, a partner in a joint ownership pact in Macau between MGM Mirage and MGM Grand Macau, got 90 percent of her money for the venture from her father, and thus is an "unsuitable partner" under New Jersey gaming rules, the report said.

MGM Mirage officials said the report "acknowledges there is no evidence that Pansy Ho has engaged in any wrongdoing or been accused of any illegal activity."

"Gaming regulators in the other jurisdictions where we operate casinos are well aware of this matter, had access to the same information as the New Jersey gaming regulators, and have all either determined that the company's relationship with Pansy Ho is appropriate or that further action was not necessary," said MGM Mirage Chairman and CEO Jim Murren.

MGM Mirage will have 30 months to sell its share of the Borgata, owned 50-50 with Boyd Gaming. Boyd has first rights to buy MGM's share. After a sale, MGM Mirage would be able to apply for another New Jersey license for other properties, the company said.

MGM Mirage shares slipped 4 cents to $12.26.

The casino commission's report quoted numerous sources, ranging from US government and regulatory agencies to a US Senate query. It also cited an investigative firm that MGM Mirage hired in 2001.

Ho and his daughter haven't been charged with or convicted of any crimes regarding their Asian casino operations.

The report said MGM Mirage's own private investigators told state authorities that "it is nearly impossible to be in the casino business in Macau at present without having associations with triad groups, or what is known as organized crime."

MGM Mirage insisted there was no taint in its deal since it "structured its business relationship with Pansy Ho to ensure the highest standards of operation and compliance with all applicable gaming laws and to protect against any improper influence. We have had a very positive working relationship with Pansy Ho and have a spotless operating record at MGM Grand Macau."

Clyde Delivers ....

In January, this was posted: Opposition is growing that included a graph indicating

38% Don't want gambling

33% Support "Resort Casinos"

3% Support Slots at tracks

Ever faithful casino cheerleading Clyde comes along with another mystical poll that proves otherwise.

Clyde's poll results have been questioned in the past.