SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 30, 2013

Column: Casino gambling worth a statewide vote

Joseph F. Doyle
The Salem News

---- — The history of gambling, going back to ancient Mesopotamia, establishes the fact that any society that has adopted it decays. Consider the effect of casino gambling on the social fabric of areas where it has been legitimized for extended periods of time. An increase in both armed and unarmed robberies, murder, spousal and child abuse and neglect, credit card fraud, prostitution, inventory and truck hijacking, and of course, a sharp increase in the prison population. All of these factors are documented, including additional problems such as alcoholism, high divorce rates, drug dealing and addiction, juvenile crime rates, personal despondency, despair, suicide and a serious increase in gambling addiction.

People in the state of Massachusetts have gotten wise, with East Boston, Palmer and now Milford rejecting casino schemes. Deval Patrick was visibly shaken at a Nov. 20 press conference and said, “See, the law is working exactly as it’s supposed to. The people have spoken.” Somehow, Attorney General Martha Coakley still hasn’t gotten the memo. She rejected a successful petition drive against casino gambling in September; now, she’s rejecting the second successful antigambling petition since she rejected the first one. The latest petition took only two weeks to get 50 percent more signatures against casino gambling than the first, 30,000 more than it needed. Who is Martha Coakley taking her marching orders from? It’s obvious that the public knows they will receive zero benefit from casino gambling and are now trying to avoid untold heartache and a statewide crime wave.

It’s estimated that three-quarters of the government revenues in this state go to excessive pay packages, benefits and entitlements for public servants. Is gambling going to reduce or eliminate state income tax (that we’ve already voted to reduce but hasn’t been implemented)? Is it going to reduce or eliminate sales tax or tolls? Is it going to reduce the escalating cost of parking tickets? Is it going to eliminate the annual excise tax on your automobile (that you’ve already paid a tax on the purchase of)? Is it going to eliminate your driver’s license renewal fee? Is it going to take the high school kids off the streets, where they’re begging for the right to play football, baseball, hockey, etc.?

Public servants, apparently, know no shame. Conservatively speaking, we, the taxpayers, spend $40 million annually in buyback for public servants’ unused sick leave and vacation time, on top of everything else we pay. Try getting that in the private sector. Apparently, we’re the servants, not them.

Another element that hasn’t been disclosed by the Golden Dome crew is whether the excessive debt that’s going to be owed by gamblers to the casinos is going to include a 15 percent add-on for collection by the state (as it is in Nevada). Also, there is a provision in the gambling bill that casinos must peruse their parking lots every 45 to 90 minutes for children left in automobiles. Really? When you have a provision like that in a supposed “law,” the supposed “law” is obviously masking predatory features that should not appear in any law. That’s not what the government is supposed to do; we have a government for our own protection, not to put our children or ourselves in jeopardy.

Deval Patrick, Martha Coakley and the rest of the Golden Dome crew should recognize that this has been a massive mistake, just like the tech tax. They should follow the votes; most Massachusetts citizens don’t want casino gambling. The casino gambling bill is a malignancy. At the very least, it now requires a statewide vote. If the state government is afraid of public sentiment, what does that tell you about who the real beneficiaries of casino gambling are?

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Joseph F. Doyle is a freelance writer living in Salem.