SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 23, 2014

Watson: Casinos erode local economies and tax state services

(Continued)

Additionally, the casinos themselves haven’t performed as promised, thus reducing the promised payments to the state. One case should interest us especially. In December, a federal bankruptcy court approved the shutdown of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel after it failed to generate satisfactory revenues.

The original developer of that casino? Steve Wynn, the man now proposing a casino in Everett. The Atlantic Club wasn’t sustainable, but here’s Wynn, selling us on the promise of gambling halls.

Why did our politicians embrace slot machines and write the casino law? For one, it’s easy to make the short-term case and much harder to quantify the long-term costs. And many pols hope not to be in their current offices eight or 10 years from now. Or maybe citizens won’t connect the dots in some indeterminate future when greatly diffused costs are distributed gradually in hard-to-see ways across the profusion of complicated programs, services, agencies and departments in the state budget.

Secondly, casino developers for years have waged a full-court lobbying press on our legislators. The lobby has unmatchable money and access, and no other day job. Eventually, they won.

Politicians are under constant pressure to expand the useful tasks that government can do. But that creates a constant search for more revenue. Casinos dangle a lot of money in front of everybody, but we’d be wise to look behind it.

Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at btwatson20@gmail.com.

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