Expanding Slots or Increasing Crime? MA Ballot Question #1

Photo courtesy of United to Stop Slots Massachusetts

By Fay Bcharah

The presidential election is coming up just this November and tensions are escalating. Will you vote for Trump? Clinton? Or are you deciding on the Green Party? This answer is obviously the essential ballot question; however, there are four other questions we must answer as Massachusetts state voters.

The first ballot question would allow the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue an additional slots license. Now, what would this mean for us if we vote yes or no? There are some factors you should look into before making a decision.

On November 22, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed The Expanded Gaming Act. According to the Mass Gaming Commission, expanding slots in MA is projected to generate thousands of jobs, hospitality and tourism, and produce $300 to $500 million in profits for the Commonwealth. There will be a license fee for each resort casino of $85 million, and 25 percent of the revenue generated will go to the Commonwealth. The slots facility will hold up to 1,250 slots and have a license fee of $25 million, and 40 percent of its revenue will be taxed. These revenues will pay for local aid, local capital improvements, health care payments, community mitigation, manufacturing, education, community colleges, transportation, debt reduction and tourism. It will also fund a recently established Race Horse Development Fund. Also, the Expanded Gaming Act offers forms of charitable gaming. Bingo and raffle profits will contribute approximately $75 million towards the economy.

United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts has a different approach. Celeste Myers, a member of the group, explained why this is a ballot question in the first place.

“Eugene McCain, a billionaire developer from Thailand, saw an opportunity to try to exploit the Massachusetts legislative process and make a profit at the residents expense,” she stated.

She goes on to say that McCain is trying to influence support of previous initiatives at the state and local level; however, “what he is suggesting is not only a substandard proposal, it is an attack on the intent of the gaming legislation.”

Myers further contends that this question is narrow and hypothetical, and she argues that the Mass Gaming Industry is still too recent to expand.

“Not only is it unfair to the residents in the targeted area but unrealistic to ask residents across the state to vet the nuances of this type of proposal,” she stated.

Photo courtesy of United to Stop Slots Massachusetts
Photo courtesy of United to Stop Slots Massachusetts

There are other arguments against the expansion made on the USS Mass website. One such argument is that tax revenues from casinos are lower than expected due to the global recession just two years ago. Meanwhile, expanding the government to run the casino business “has known negatives such as traffic and public safety, crime, bankruptcy, family violence and other social problems.” Rather than improving the Commonwealth, USS Mass claims the casino industry will transfer the money of working families to the bank accounts of multi-millionaires “while leaving communities to shoulder their costs.”

Though the Massachusetts Gaming Commission intends to use much of its revenue for the Massachusetts community, USS Mass warns that the expected revenue amount is overestimated. Nonetheless, expanding casinos can possibly provide some profits and charity to better our public systems; it can also cost our society major setbacks.

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