Three years ago, Massachusetts jumped on the casino bandwagon just as the wheels were beginning to wobble. Three years later, the wheels are coming off entirely, and Question 3 provides voters with an opportunity to get off the wagon before it is down to the axles by repealing the 2011 casino law.
Question 3 is confusingly worded, beginning with the headline in the voter information booklet, "Expanding prohibition on gaming," which could just as easily read "Prohibiting expansion on gaming." (Gaming is the politically correct euphemism for gambling.) To clarify, a "yes" vote means no to slot machines and casinos while a "no" vote maintains the status quo.
The arguments against casinos haven't changed in three years. The jobs they produce are largely temporary or low wage. Crime, gambling addictions and bankruptcies increase. What has changed since the law's passage is the casino landscape.
Casinos in Atlantic City, an early gambling Mecca, have been failing and falling like dominoes. The two casino giants in southeastern Connecticut continue to experience financial setbacks. Casino interests in Massachusetts, however, move ahead on four proposed facilities as if nothing has changed and New York state is in even greater denial. Berkshire County may be book-ended by casinos in Springfield and East Greenbush, New York, which could impact our cultural venues by outbidding them for attractions or claiming regional exclusivity.With gambling revenue stagnant if not declining, the growing casino glut that may emerge in the region defeats the main argument for casinos: that they bring in visitors from out-of-state who will leave their money behind when they go home. If everyone in the state and region lives within easy driving distance of a casino the gambling palaces will do no more than cannibalize local gambling dollars. The negatives will remain but the one alleged positive, attracting visitor dollars, will disappear. The additional tax revenue advocates claim the casinos will generate will fail to materialize.
When a community or a state reaches out to casinos it constitutes an admission of defeat. It is acknowledging that it has so little faith in itself and its people that it will act out of desperation.
Massachusetts, with its innovative businesses and top colleges and universities to fuel those businesses, should not reach so low.
The casino industry is spending heavily to defeat Question 3, and ads that extol the supposed virtues of job creation without ever mentioning words like "casino" or "gambling" reveal that the industry knows it can't honestly sell its product to voters. Casino gambling is bad for Massachusetts, and the few arguments for it are evaporating. The Eagle urges a "YES" vote on Question 3 repealing the state casino law.