Patrick Holds the Right Cards on Casinos

Amid the standoff on Beacon Hill that has apparently put casinos on hold for at least another year, and may have scuttled their chances altogether, there is no shortage of finger-pointing on this highly controversial subject.
Some lay the blame on Gov. Deval Patrick for insisting that a casino measure include just three resort-style casinos and no slot parlors at racetracks (called racinos) by some. Indeed, Patrick’s opponents in the upcoming election say that his stubbornness will keep the state from adding a projected 15,000 jobs any time soon, while also delaying any much-needed revenues in the form of casino licenses. In fact, Tim Cahill said that, if the state winds up with no casinos or slots, Patrick “owns this recession.”
But from our view, Patrick is right about this gaming bill, and we’re glad he’s sticking to his guns, even if it means casinos will have to wait another year or two or even 10. The governor says casino backers have waited a long time to see a gaming measure win approval, and they should wait longer if doing so means the difference between getting the legislation right and getting it wrong.
And approving slot parlors at the racetracks is simply wrong.
Why? For starters, doing what the Legislature has proposed amounts to awarding no-bid contracts to the track owners, which is simply not a good way to do business, even if those track operators are suffering and need an economic boost. But more importantly, the racinos offer very little in terms of jobs — it doesn’t take many people to run a slot parlor — and economic development, and will inevitably become additional competition for the three resort casinos, including the one proposed for a site just off the Turnpike in Palmer. There is already plenty of competition to begin with, and probably much more on the way in New York and other New England states. The Commonwealth doesn’t need to be creating competition for its own casinos.
As he explained his stance on the slot parlors and his reluctance to compromise, Patrick said the risks from the racinos far outweigh the potential benefits, and he’s right.
Casino supporters, including the many in Palmer who are looking at the facility proposed for their town as an economic lifeline, have a right to be upset and disappointed with the stalemate in Boston. Gaming has been debated in this state for a long time, and it finally seemed as though the stars were properly aligned for passage.
But then, politics got in the way, as it so often does.
From our perspective, though, the measure being pushed by the House and Senate and rejected by the governor was flawed, and the current stalemate is better for the Commonwealth than a bad gaming measure.
Who knows what will happen 11 months from now? The governor faces strong competition this November and may not prevail. Meanwhile, a number of legislators may not win re-election, and a number are not even seeking another term. Casinos may never again come as close to passage as they did this July.
But in the final analysis, the proposal that was on the table just wasn’t worth that roll of the dice.

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