A Safe Bet?

To slot or not to slot, that is the question.  Well, that has
been the question in Worcester over the past several weeks after it was
announced that a Chicago-based gaming company has targeted Worcester for one of
the coveted Slots Casinos in Massachusetts.  Does Worcester take the
plunge into to this business endeavor?  I have always been a proponent of
legalized gambling in Massachusetts, but I must admit this decision is not that

It will be
interesting to see how this plays out.  I personally feel that something
needs to go into the vacant lot along Kelly Square. It has been unused,
underutilized and undeveloped for way to long.  Is a Slots Casino the
answer to that problem?  I don’t know, I used think I did, but I really
don’t.  Good friend, Nick Kotsopoulos of the Worcester Telegram, recently
wrote about the City Councils plan to get out and find out how Worcester
residents feel about the potential of a Slots Casino in Worcester, namely the neighborhoods
directly surrounding the proposed area.  That is the right approach to
start but it needs to be a series of meetings.  The response from those
meetings, although crucial, should not be the deciding factor, as only
detractors tend to go to those meetings and could be counterproductive.
My brother-in-law
lives in the proposed area and I took it upon myself to ask him his thoughts.
 He is one of the most optimistic people I have ever known, so I knew I
would get a no nonsense type of answer.  He told me “…hope spring eternal but
I’ve seen studies that show good and bad. I am wondering about rents and
property values.”
  Not a ringing endorsement but also
not an opponent.  So I decided to look at the studies myself.
The Worcester
Regional Research Bureau (WRRB) did two studies on the subject.  One done
in 2007, when Gov. Deval Patrick initially proposed legalized gambling and one
a few weeks ago, which was just a follow up to its 2007 report.  The 2007
report, in my eyes, was very thorough and definitely raises some legitimate
questions to having a casino in Worcester.  The report talks about
gambling itself and the addictions that it can bring to the city.  It
talks about how the money the city would get would level off and eventually dry
out.  The report discusses how a casino in Worcester would not solve the
problem of people taking their dollars out of state to another casino.  It
explains that under the state’s plan, all the casinos that would go up throughout
the state, and the ones that already exist in Connecticut and Rhode Island,
would all be going after the same dollar and begin to “cannibalize”
each other.
The WRRB was very detailed
in its research and raised some outstanding points that would make a large
proponent, like me, stop and think about my support.  However, there were
three points that the report showed that I am having trouble understanding.
 I am not going to say I don’t agree with those points, I feel that they
were not comprehensively researched.
The first is the
point that the profits will be re-invested out of state by the casino owner.
 I am not saying that wouldn’t happen, but how does the WRRB declare that
without knowing what deal the casino company makes with the city?  City
Manager O’Brien and the city council may make certain demands based on the
projections and guarantees that the developer makes, I hope that is true.
 But to arbitrarily make a blanket statement like that they would not
invest in Worcester would be misleading.  The city council has made it
clear that this will be a two way street, and as most governments go, the city
will try to protect itself.  I may be naive to think that, but the
sensitive nature of this topic may make them think harder about that.
The second point I
had trouble understanding is the opinion on how the surrounding businesses will
lose money because the money they are generally getting will be diverted to the
casino.  I’m sorry, but I’m not getting this one at all.  If that is
a true statement, why do these types of organizations promote sports stadiums
because it will help the surrounding businesses?  Wouldn’t business be
diverted into the sporting event that sells concessions
and paraphernalia?   I think this falls in the same category.
 Also, the casino will be drawing from surrounding areas that normally
don’t frequent these establishments.  I think it would be a wash at worst,
because we need to keep in mind that it’s not a full-fledged casino but a
twelve hundred machine slots parlor.
The final point that
caught my eye, and had me scratching my head, because it basically rejects
casinos virtually anywhere in Massachusetts.  The WRRB maintains, from a
study done by The National Impact Gambling Study Commission, that gambling
addictions doubled among populations within fifty miles of a casino, fifty
miles.  To put that in perspective that covers as far east as Boston, as
far south as East Greenwich, R.I., as far west as Holyoke, MA and as far north
as Manchester, N.H.  There isn’t a proposal out there that has a casino
outside of those parameters.  So it really doesn’t matter where this thing
goes, the WRRB is against it.
The rest of this
study goes into the social implications of gambling addiction.  For every
study that says these casinos cause gambling addictions to sky rocket, which
are truly valid arguments, there is a study saying that it doesn’t.  That
is where I am down the middle; my feeling is that if you are addicted to
gambling it doesn’t matter where you put this thing.  But I also agree
that if you put this thing here, we could see more gambling addictions, it’s a
classic Catch 22.
I truly don’t have
a dog in this fight.  If the casino is built then finally something gets
developed on an unused lot that has been up for discussion anytime a new
venture comes through.  If a casino is not built, then nothing changes,
which in Massachusetts is very welcomed.  The city council is taking the
right approach here, but they need to go in with a clear mind.  Let’s not
be against “just because”
For the proponents
of the casino, I’m with you.  For the opponents, I am with you too.
If you don’t take
it from me, ask my wife.

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