Twelve mayors, including Boston Mayor Tom Menino, on Tuesday launched an effort to “jump-start” approval of casinos on Beacon Hill by penning a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray, asking them to reach a consensus. Patrick has said that casinos are “not [his] top priority.”
Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, the chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for Jobs and Growth, organized the letter effort. The letter, of course, concentrates on the “benefits” of expanded predatory gambling, including “sizable new tax revenues, significant new job creation, and new and significant tourism and hospitality growth.”
However, there has been no independent analysis of expanded predatory gambling to back up the claims in the letter. All studies done to date have been flawed or been conducted by the gambling industry or firms with an interest in bringing gambling to Massachusetts. The true costs and benefits of expanded gambling, whether casinos or slot machines at racetracks, must be known before the issue moves forward. It is MFI’s firm belief that if such a study is conducted, the costs will far outweigh any revenue or job benefit.
A recently released national report by economist Alan Meister found that revenues at Indian casinos decreased by 1 percent nationally in 2009, the first time revenues have fallen since tribes were given the right to build casinos in 1988. In 2008, they had shown only a modest 1 percent gain after years of double-digit growth.
Beyond Indian gaming, commercial gambling revenue dropped 8 percent from $30 billion to $27.6 billion during 2009. In Connecticut, the two Indian gambling casinos faced a 7 percent decline in revenues in 2009, with Meister attributing that drop to both the economic downturn and increased competition in the northeast .This indicates that the gambling market in New England has likely reached its saturation point, and sizeable returns would be unlikely for new gambling interests.