Gambling Governor Patrick

You might as well go all in at this point

 For the past few years Massachusetts legislators have quibbled over the desire, or better yet the need to bring casino gambling to the Commonwealth. The idea has always been lurking in the background as here as it is common knowledge that the majority of the cars in the parking lots at the Connecticut casinos have Massachusetts license plates. The bill died a few years back but now it is back and the legislature and Governor are quibbling over details, and Governor Patrick’s threatened veto.Yo 11!

 The Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo has said he will not support a bill that does not contain provisions for slot parlors at race tracks. Give DeLeo credit for be more forthcoming than his predecessors – DeLeo’s district lost many jobs when greyhound racing was outlawed – and Suffolk Downs horse racing is not what it once was – he sees slots parlors as a way to bring a few hundred jobs back into East Boston and Revere. DeLeo has been able to forge a compromise with President of the Senate Therese Murray that would allow three casinos along with the slot parlors. Governor Patrick is adamantly opposed to slot parlors and sees them as problematic and has said he will veto any bill with this provision attached. Apparently the legislature does not have the votes to over ride a veto.

My first issue with this is that gambling is not a great way to balance the state economy and get jobs. Most jobs are service jobs and are low paying – and many of the gains of gambling fall on the backs of the poorest members of society. That being said, I am not a puritan – if the state legalizes gambling I see little difference in what format it takes. The slippery slope was always there in Massachusetts – from mob run numbers rackets in the urban areas, Suffolk Downs brought pari-mutuel wagering to the state in 1935 (I have to wonder if this was seen as a panacea for the Great Depression’s economic woes?) and a very active state lottery that passed legislature in 1971. Gambling is part of the culture of Massachusetts.

Horse racingSecondly I truly believe it makes no difference what format the gambling takes – Patrick has studies that see slot parlors as more insidious than other forms of casino gambling. I would like to know if the Governor has ever been in a liquor store or bar that has Keno? People play constantly – hanging around for hours playing against pathetic odds. Has he ever worked at a retail establishment that sells scratch tickets? I have and I have seen the same people come in daily and scratch over $100 a day in tickets – and when they win a couple of hundred dollars they immediately buy more – there are no winners beyond the state coffers and the state jobs that the lottery creates. The media and lottery only publicize the occasional big winner – you do not see or hear about the problem gamblers.

My maternal grandfather was below middle class all his life but always played the number, the lottery, football and most of all the ponies. He loved to brag to me when I was a child when he won $100 – he even took me to the track and let me sip his beer when I was four! Looking back of course, I realized that my grandparents never had anything – moved from apartment to apartment and job to job for no more of a reason than my grandfather’s vices.

I know of a once happy marriage that ended when the wife could not stop her problem gambling. The couple enjoyed trips to Vegas and the husband was able to keep it in perspective and have fun with it – not everyone can do that. After the wife got treatment and everything seemed fine the husband started to wonder where all their money had gone. It turned out his wife was getting every credit card she could get her hands on and then getting the cash advances on each card to supply her lottery ticket habit – which kept her satisfied between trips to casinos.

Another ruined family I knew had a dad with a good job – in the neighborhood of $60,000 per year who could not even make it paycheck to paycheck. The family was devastated; parents divorced and dad lived in a squalid apartment and drove a $500 car you would associate with a poor teenager’s first vehicle. Gambling does affect families – and it is not by improving their lot. I have seen so many bad scenes – people lose their job, be on the run from bookies and loan sharks and the ever present multiple addictions – problem gamblers are likely to have drinking and/or drug problems as well.

I am not saying that we should outlaw gambling – many, including myself on rare occasion can enjoy it – although I never do it anymore (I understand financial priorities.) The state has legal gambling with pari-mutuel wagering, charity bingo, Las Vegas Nights and the various lottery games. Adding casino gambling is only another variety to the mix. Governor Patrick is delusional if he believes slot machines will increase problem gambling – problem gambling is all around us and the real problem gambler will gamble no matter what is available. If only one or a few choices are available it will make no difference to the addict which format they use. Heroin addict will take Percocet or Oxycontin; an alcoholic will drink Listerine if no Scotch, wine or beer; and the problem gambler will play blackjack if there are no slot machines. The slippery slope begins with having any legalized gambling – not with adding another ingredient to the recipe. If this is the best our leaders can come up with for fixing the economic woes of our state I say the might as well “go all in.”


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4 Responses to “Gambling Governor Patrick”

  1. Lee Ann Calandra Says:

    Great article Mike, I completely agree. The thought of gambling to fix financial problems is like having another baby to save a marriage. It will never work.

  2. Jim Maz Says:

    In total agreement here Mike. Good write up.. It seems politicians want to fix problems on someone else’s time and dime and this is no different. Until spending is curbed from up top FOR REAL, expect more band aids (such as gambling, loss of services, higher taxes) to creep up in legislation.

    Quick edit, I think you meant the to be they in your last sentence..

  3. Andew Hall Says:

    Good stuff, casinos are like a lot of things – poor choices for individuals, but they should not be illegal. Who says the government should have a virtual monopoly on gambling anyway?

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