Op-Eds Opinion

Not a Cure, Not a Disease, Just a Casino

On Nov. 4, Massachusetts citizens favored an overwhelming “no” vote to ballot question three, ultimately rejecting a casino repeal. As a result, construction of resort casinos in Springfield and Everett and a slot machine parlor in Plainville will begin by the end of 2014.

Tyler Leahy
Opinions Editor




leahyOn Nov. 4, Massachusetts citizens favored an overwhelming “no” vote to ballot question three, ultimately rejecting a casino repeal. As a result, construction of resort casinos in Springfield and Everett and a slot machine parlor in Plainville will begin by the end of 2014.

The casino repeal was rejected by a remarkable twenty-percent margin, creating an elated pro-casino buzz for many Western Massachusetts residents welcoming MGM Springfield.

“Now let’s get shovels in the ground!” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno on Tuesday night [Nov. 4], as quoted in the lead of a story by MassLive.

Anti-casino diehards were left shaking their heads after getting their repeal of state legislation on the ballot, only to lose by a landslide.

There is no reason to be anti-casino or pro-casino in the unique setting of Springfield, however. To this point, much of the commentary by Western Massachusetts residents has been too radical for me to feel any way other than indifferent.

Most in the pro-casino camp have been clinging to MGM Springfield as a viable mass producer of jobs and economic growth for a struggling city. The arrival of MGM Springfield will create 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs. Certainly this is a positive aspect that even gambling naysayers cannot refute.

However, there is an unsettling blind faith by the average pro-casino voter in the Greater Springfield area that casinos will bring automatic economic bailout to the area and to the state.

As reported by Mark Arsenault of the Boston Globe in October, $4.5 million was spent last month alone on the pro-casino campaign. He also noted that, “The casino-backed Coalition to Protect Mass Jobs has spent $6.2 million this year defending the casino law, about 15 times what opponents spent [as of Oct. 27].”

It seems as if protecting jobs is done by spending an unnecessary amount of money. This feeds the old adage, “You have to spend money to make money,” and worries me that money is the only priority here.  The pro-casino camp is right, though. Tax revenues will be boosted, and some jobs will be created. There is just one mind-boggling question that remains in my mind.

MGM Resorts International’s new casino will come in the form of a nice and shiny package.  It will graze some of the issues facing Springfield. MGM Springfield will not kill all financial disparities haunting the city, and it will not be a silver bullet. So why are we treating it like one?

Disappointed anti-casino loyalists had to have known their efforts would fail, but their resiliency should be respected. On the other hand, their largely radical approach to arguing against casinos is something I do not understand.

I identify as an anti-casino sympathizer. Like I said, I am indifferent to whether we have one here in Western Massachusetts or not. If many pro-casino voters view MGM Springfield as a sort of false knight in shining armor, many anti-casino lobbyists view it as a fire-breathing dragon destined to char the moral capacities of everyone in its path. MGM Springfield is not a knight in shining armor riding on horseback to save the darling Princess Springfield from financial distress. MGM Springfield is also not a dragon; dragons are not even real.

What I mean by this is that some anti-casino lobbyists are suggesting gambling will launch the common people of Western Massachusetts into a downward spiral of debt, domestic violence, and divorce, as evident in a letter to the editor submission posted to MassLive on Nov. 5.

Sure, there is statistical data suggesting gambling relates to these issues, but we are wrong to assume that adults are entirely incapable of making their own decisions.

Essentially, my argument toward casinos agrees with the ideology on display in Tom Keane’s column “The vice squad” for the Boston Globe on Nov. 3 about the town of Westminster’s plan to abolish cigarette sales.

Massachusetts is a state where we can buy alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings. It is a state where marijuana possession is decriminalized, and is likely to be legalized in 2016. Increasingly, the people of Massachusetts are being given liberties in their personal lives. These are all things Keane argued.

Personal freedoms are why people love America, and the people of America will always love their vices. Americans love alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and gambling. Bay Staters are no different.

The argument that none of these people are capable of making sound personal decisions is ludicrous. I know plenty of people that are not responsible gamblers, but that does not mean they should prevent freedoms of the majority who will be.

I will not pretend to have a perfect understanding of the amount of tax revenue and job creation we can expect for Springfield. I also will not pretend to be an expert on how social problems in the city will be affected by casino gambling.

I cannot argue that no one is being level-headed in their approach to MGM Springfield’s arrival. I have simply observed two popular opinions develop over the last few years that are too radical for me to agree with, enough so for me to point them out in this column.

MGM Springfield will not be a cure for an ailing city, nor will it be a ravaging disease. It will be a resort casino. That is what we need to keep in mind.

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