Massachusetts Shouldn’t Bet on Gambling Revenue [OPINION]
The government is always looking for additional revenue, especially if the leaders can get the cash without voting to raise taxes. But gambling is a false hope.
Massachusetts is starting to see the increased revenue from expanded gambling in the state and there will be additional money coming along. However, the state's leadership has to focus on reality. And focusing on reality can be tough when the cards and the dice are going your way and the cash is rolling in.
It took years to get a casino bill passed in the legislature and signed by the governor; it was Governor Deval Patrick who signed the law. The bill was flawed, but most things are in some form or fashion. Southeastern Massachusetts was put in a position that favored the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe over all others.
That hasn't worked out.
Unless, of course, you are a believer in fantasy outcomes. In that case, you are free to take the imaginary commuter rail to New Bedford and then go to the imaginary casino and also go the brand new unicorn zoo that is staffed by talking leprechauns.
The idea of free money from gambling has led to financial devastation. Donald Trump, Atlantic City, the nameless folks at Gambler's Anonymous, and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe can all tell stories about the difficulty of trying to make it in gambling. Any gambler can tell you that eventually, the table changes and the luck flows away —along with the money.
A little bit of gambling for entertainment is fine. And a little bit of the state budget relying on gambling is fine, too. It is actually beneficial to get some tax revenue from volunteers.
Massachusetts had a dog racing industry that was well regulated and profitable for the owners, workers and the Commonwealth. Then some folks got together and ran a ballot initiative and the industry was banned by the voters. The capital, the jobs and the revenue to the state was gone on a whim.
The state of Rhode Island has two full-fledged casinos up and running now. Plus, they have a state lottery and they just legalized sports gambling. That's lots of gambling revenue for the small state, and I hope they know what to do with it. They are going to have a serious loss in state revenue when the economy eventually slows and there are less expendable dollars for people to wager with as entertainment. Public safety, education and infrastructure funds will all be reduced when the economy rolls a three on the come out.
Massachusetts has a diverse economy and tax base. The expansion of gambling is something the public wants, and something the state needed to do according to many experts. But now the state needs to look at managing the industry and not becoming addicted to the idea of the never-ending flow of free cash.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.