Mayors, unions revive casino push
April 21, 2009 11:27 AM Email| Comments (32)| Text size – + By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
A group of influential mayors, including Thomas M. Menino of Boston, and trade unions re-launched their campaign today to persuade lawmakers to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts, adding further momentum to a hot-button debate that is expected to take place on Beacon Hill this fall.
The group, called the “Massachusetts Coalition for Jobs and Growth,” is sending out letters to municipal officials to try to persuade them to get behind resort-style casinos, the version that is supported by Governor Deval Patrick.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, whose district includes Suffolk Downs and Wonderland racetracks, has expressed strong backing for slot parlors, with the most likely venues being the state's existing dog and horse racing tracks. Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who oversees the lottery, has supported auctioning three licenses for slot parlors.
Senate President Therese Murray last week added more momentum to the debate, saying the state needed to find a new source of revenue as the state struggles through a budget crisis. “Ka-ching,” Murray told a group of business leaders at a hotel ballroom, jerking her arm downward as if pulling the lever on a slot machine.
The letter from local officials, which is going out this week, was signed by Mayors Thomas M. Menino of Boston, Kimberley Driscoll of Salem, Thomas Ambrosino of Revere, and City Manager Jay Ash of Chelsea.
“We don’t have the luxury to continue a policy that exports Massachusetts tax revenues, jobs, and tourism to Connecticut and Rhode Island,” Menino said in a statement. “We have an opportunity with the authorization of resort casinos to create a new and sustainable revenue source for the state and cities and towns that will also create thousands of new jobs and stimulate tourism and economic development growth. And we need to seize that opportunity now.”
The coalition so far includes:
Mayor Tom Ambrosino, City of Revere
Mayor Tom Menino, City of Boston
City Manager Jay Ash, City of Chelsea
Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, City of Salem
Mayor Mark Hawke, City of Gardner
Mayor Carolyn A. Kirk, City of Gloucester
Sheet Metal Workers LV # 17
Greater Boston Labor Council
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Local 103 I.B.E.W
Sheet Metal Workers LV # 17
Massachusetts Teachers Association
Massachusetts Building Trades Council
Carpenters Local 624
Carpenters Local 218
Suffolk Sterling Racecourse
Jason Smith, Selectman, Framingham
WFCW Local 1445
Here is a copy of the letter from the mayors:
Dear Fellow Municipal Official:
As Gov. Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts State Legislature decide the future of gaming expansion in Massachusetts, we are asking you to join with us in supporting the licensing of three gaming, entertainment and destination venues that will require the investment of more than $3 billion in private sector spending within our economy --- a critical and much-needed fiscal and economic development initiative that will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new local aid to be distributed to our struggling cities and towns.
Each of us is well aware that most of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns face severe budgetary pressures likely to result in thousands of municipal employee layoffs and almost unimaginable curtailment of programs and services. At the same time, Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature must address a $1 billion state budget deficit --- and that budget deficit next fiscal year may well approach or exceed $2 billion.
Further, taxpayers have made it clear in public opinion polls, at town meeting, and most demonstrably in a slew of city and town budget override votes, that they are opposed to most --- if not all --- tax increases.
Operating under the existing status quo, there is very little leeway, even by cutting jobs, programs and services, that state government and cities and towns can effectively address these fiscal inequities. As local officials, this leaves us no alternative other than to cut operating budgets --- by all means necessary.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Studies show that three gaming, entertainment and destination venues will generate nearly $500 million in new tax revenues, create 10,000 construction jobs and more than 20,000 casino-related jobs, spawn economic development statewide, generate more than $400 million in casino-related goods and services spending among Massachusetts small businesses, and revitalize the state’s tourism and hospitality sectors.
And, as a UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis recommended, by apportioning half of all new casino tax revenues to local aid, Massachusetts cities and towns would receive more than $200 million annually in additional local aid --- an estimated 10.4% increase over existing lottery disbursements.
Additionally, by dedicating to local aid an estimated $600 million in licensing fees from the three casinos --- apportioned over three years --- cities and towns would receive another $200 million annually as the casinos were being built and entering their first full year of operation..
Since 2003, Massachusetts residents have spent more than $1 billion annually at the Connecticut casinos and Rhode Island slot parlors. All told, since the casinos and slot parlors opened in 1993, Bay Staters have spent well about $12 billion at Connecticut and Rhode Island gaming venues. That spending has resulted in Massachusetts residents generating $4 billion in tax revenues to the Connecticut and Rhode Island state treasuries, monies used to fund education, local services, police and fire, property tax relief, and scores of other initiatives --- in Connecticut benefitted.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE; Once again, the unions, and construction companies are looking for work. In my opinion, the only ones who are going to make out on the casinos, is labor and construction. The deal can only benefit them.
The mayors and government officials are looking for quick fixes for their budget short falls. Three casinos with a total of $600 million ($200 millon each) in licensing fees? Are you kidding me? No way is this a good deal.
Readers go on line to the Boston Globe, where this story came from, and look at the comments of the readers. I left the comments off, so that I could be more fair to everyone.
The Mohegan Sun Casino seems dedicated to doing the Palmer project.. Most tribal members, I talked to, do not think it is a good idea.
Look around the Mohegan Reservation, in Uncasville, Connecticut, and what do you see? Two cranes by a hole where the Project Horizon (Earth) hotel was supposed to be built. It was stopped from being built in the end of September, 2008. Workers call the two cranes, "THE CRANES OF SHAME."
Look on top of the hill, what do you see? A shrink wrapped government community center that may never get finished, at least not in the near future. workers call the shrink wrapped building, "THE WHITE ELEPHANT.'
Both projects, were stopped. Why? Was it the economy? Was it that the MTGA made a mistake? Did the MTGA mess up? Who is the MTGA? Oh, I know it's the Mohegan Tribal Council actings as the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. Four out of the five Mohegan Tribal Councilors, who are running for re-election, voted for the government community building. Were they wrong? In my opinion, the Mohegan Tribal Council wasn't listening to the majority of tribal members who didn't want the project.
Does the MTGA have the funding to do any projects? What about the proposed Aqueduct deal? What about Pocono Downs? Who is making these decisions?
Is the Mohegan Tribal Council listening? Should the tribal councilors who are running for re-election go? Are they listening to the tribe? What do you think?