An Even Hand: This Year’s State House Hearing on Casinos is more Subdued

May 12, 2011
By

Suffolk Downs’ Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle (center) during last week’s hearing.

It was a more subdued hearing than last year when hundreds of people both for and against legalizing casino gaming in Massachusetts descended upon the State House to enter their testimony on the record.

This time around, the hearing room was half filled as the debate over whether to authorize gaming dragged on for nearly eight hours. The lack of interest this time around could be a sign many in the state as well as a majority of state lawmakers  have already made up their minds on the issue that came close to passing last year.

Unlike last year, state lawmakers mostly stayed away from testifying aside from a handful and the passion both for and against seemed to vanish as both sides went through the motions of entering testimony and making the pitch for a second time that gaming will either save the fiscally strapped state or send it into moral ruin.

However, one thing is clear expanded gaming or full scale resort-style casinos in the Commonwealth are not going to be as epidemic as crack was in the 1980s as some suggested at last week’s public hearing at the State House.

However, it is also not going to solve all of the state’s fiscal woes as others would suggest.

Somewhere in the middle is where the truth lies.

While testimony came from all sides and angles last week, all eyes here were focused on the testimony of Suffolk Downs Racetrack.

The famed local horse racing venue has long desired expanding gaming as a way to sure up its struggling thoroughbred industry and hopes to file for one of three gaming licenses if one of several compromise bills to Governor Deval Patrick’s bill last year to legalize resort-style casinos in the state is approved by the legislature.

But before Suffolk Downs is given ‘permission to print money’ as some would put it, the racetrack and its ownership team led by Richard Fields would have to concede to some hefty mitigation that would include solid job creation and roadway and infrastructure improvements.

At last week’s testimony, Suffolk Downs’ Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle began another round of convincing some nay-sayers in the legislature that the racetrack is not only interested in a gaming license but is willing to create local jobs and improve infrastructure surrounding the track.

“We propose to invest hundreds of millions to immediately create thousands of construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs while improving our existing racing operation, enhancing the areaÕs tourism economy and providing much-needed support for local traffic and transportation infrastructure upgrades,” said Tuttle last week.

Unlike his testimony last year which included the moral obligations Suffolk Downs would have if it was allowed to open a casino, Tuttle’s testimony this time focused primarily on job creation and job preservation.

“A 2007 analysis showed Suffolk Downs generating 2,300 jobs in the horse racing industry and related agribusiness throughout the state. This includes over 1,000 at the track itself, including our direct employees Ð mutual clerks, maintenance workers, restaurant, cleaning, security and administrative personnel — as well as the owners, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, vets, blacksmiths and stable hands licensed by the state of Massachusetts who care for our horses and work at farms throughout the state where our horses are bred, raised and boarded,” said Tuttle. “There are currently 18 registered Thoroughbred breeding farms in Massachusetts. We believe that number could double over the next few years as we improve our purses and racing operations, extending the benefits of expanded gaming to the agricultural sector of the Massachusetts economy.”

Tuttle added that unlike other parts of the state where this type of development may not be popular he believes a casino here would be welcomed as a boost to the local economy and job creation.

“As an existing gaming destination with a 75-year track record as a good neighbor and an employer of thousands through the years, gaming development at Suffolk Downs is welcomed by our local communities communities like East Boston, Revere, Chelsea, Winthrop and Everett whose residents have been hit hard by the scarcity of good jobs with good benefits,” said Tuttle.

  • Neighbor of Suffolk Downs

     Testimony of John Ribeiro, 
    Founder, Neighbors of Suffolk Downs
    Before The Joint Committee on Economic
    Development and Emerging Technologies
    Public Hearing on Expanded Gambling Legislation
    Wednesday, May 4th 2011

    Top 10 Reasons To Support An Independent Cost Benefit Analysis

    10. The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study
    Commission Had One Major Recommendation: that any State that was considering
    expanding gambling should understand not only the benefits but the cost of
    going into business with the casino industry.

    9. The casino industry is a troubled industry. Mohegan Sun is $1.6 billion in debt and Moody’s has rated their stock just above junk bond status. The State of New Jersey is bailing out the casinos of Atlantic City. Casino revenue is down in nearly all established gambling states.

    8. Senate President Therese Murray, an ardent casino supporter, was quoted in February 2010
    expressing her concerns about corruption: “Every other state that’s done gaming, someone goes to jail because it’s done too fast, too sloppily.”

    7. The State will be required to invest between $20 and $50 million to establish an oversight commission before realizing one red cent in revenue from expanded gambling.

    6. Slot machines will signal the death knell of the racing industry in Massachusetts. Caesars Entertainment, the latest investor to join the ownership group at Suffolk Downs, has offered the State of Iowa $10 million to allow it to end dog racing in that state.

    5. Tourists won’t be coming to Boston for the casinos; the casino industry wants to come to Boston
    for the tourists. More people visit Faneuil Hall than Disney World every year. Solid data show that when casinos come to heritage tourism towns, visitation to the historic resources plummet as it did in Vicksburg, Miss., where 40 percent of the historic downtown is now shuttered. 

    4. Host communities are most directly impacted. Violent crime and calls to 911 increase dramatically over time, quickly outpacing any mitigation funding that is offered. Susan Mendenhall, former mayor of Foxwoods host community, Ledyard CT said gun and drug crimes are on the rise. She also added that emergency dispatch calls for police, fire and medical help have risen from about 3,000 to 15,000 a year since the casino was built.

    3. During the current economic downturn, casino states are seeing far greater budget shortfalls than
    is Massachusetts. This includes, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Nevada, which leads in this category with a 56% budget shortfall this fiscal year.

    2. It makes perfect logical sense for any individual, corporation or public entity to understand the
    costs of doing business before undertaking any new venture. New Hampshire has done this and Rhode Island is preparing to do the same. We in Massachusetts must understand what is in store for us before we make such an intractable change to the culture and character of this great State.

    1. The casino industry spent $6 million during the last legislative session trying to convince this body to enact expanded gambling legislation. If this were such a good idea, why would they need to spend a single penny? This body has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility to act on behalf of and in the best interests of the People of the Commonwealth. If expanded gambling legislation is passed without an independent analysis of the benefits as well as the costs having been completed, this body will have failed to protect the very people they serve.Testimony of John Ribeiro, Founder, Neighbors of Suffolk DownsBefore The Joint Committee on EconomicDevelopment and Emerging TechnologiesPublic Hearing on Expanded Gambling LegislationWednesday, May 4th 2011Top 10 Reasons To Support An Independent Cost Benefit Analysis10. The 1999 National Gambling Impact StudyCommission Had One Major Recommendation: that any State that was consideringexpanding gambling should understand not only the benefits but the cost ofgoing into business with the casino industry.9. The casino industry is a troubled industry. Mohegan Sun is $1.6 billion in debt and Moody’s has rated their stock just above junk bond status. The State of New Jersey is bailing out the casinos of Atlantic City. Casino revenue is down in nearly all established gambling states.8. Senate President Therese Murray, an ardent casino supporter, was quoted in February 2010expressing her concerns about corruption: “Every other state that’s done gaming, someone goes to jail because it’s done too fast, too sloppily.”7. The State will be required to invest between $20 and $50 million to establish an oversight commission before realizing one red cent in revenue from expanded gambling.6. Slot machines will signal the death knell of the racing industry in Massachusetts. Caesars Entertainment, the latest investor to join the ownership group at Suffolk Downs, has offered the State of Iowa $10 million to allow it to end dog racing in that state.5. Tourists won’t be coming to Boston for the casinos; the casino industry wants to come to Bostonfor the tourists. More people visit Faneuil Hall than Disney World every year. Solid data show that when casinos come to heritage tourism towns, visitation to the historic resources plummet as it did in Vicksburg, Miss., where 40 percent of the historic downtown is now shuttered. 4. Host communities are most directly impacted. Violent crime and calls to 911 increase dramatically over time, quickly outpacing any mitigation funding that is offered. Susan Mendenhall, former mayor of Foxwoods host community, Ledyard CT said gun and drug crimes are on the rise. She also added that emergency dispatch calls for police, fire and medical help have risen from about 3,000 to 15,000 a year since the casino was built.3. During the current economic downturn, casino states are seeing far greater budget shortfalls thanis Massachusetts. This includes, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Nevada, which leads in this category with a 56% budget shortfall this fiscal year.2. It makes perfect logical sense for any individual, corporation or public entity to understand thecosts of doing business before undertaking any new venture. New Hampshire has done this and Rhode Island is preparing to do the same. We in Massachusetts must understand what is in store for us before we make such an intractable change to the culture and character of this great State.1. The casino industry spent $6 million during the last legislative session trying to convince this body to enact expanded gambling legislation. If this were such a good idea, why would they need to spend a single penny? This body has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility to act on behalf of and in the best interests of the People of the Commonwealth. If expanded gambling legislation is passed without an independent analysis of the benefits as well as the costs having been completed, this body will have failed to protect the very people they serve.

  • Neighbor of Suffolk Downs

     Testimony of John Ribeiro, 
    Founder, Neighbors of Suffolk Downs
    Before The Joint Committee on Economic
    Development and Emerging Technologies
    Public Hearing on Expanded Gambling Legislation
    Wednesday, May 4th 2011

    Top 10 Reasons To Support An Independent Cost Benefit Analysis

    10. The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study
    Commission Had One Major Recommendation: that any State that was considering
    expanding gambling should understand not only the benefits but the cost of
    going into business with the casino industry.

    9. The casino industry is a troubled industry. Mohegan Sun is $1.6 billion in debt and Moody’s has rated their stock just above junk bond status. The State of New Jersey is bailing out the casinos of Atlantic City. Casino revenue is down in nearly all established gambling states.

    8. Senate President Therese Murray, an ardent casino supporter, was quoted in February 2010
    expressing her concerns about corruption: “Every other state that’s done gaming, someone goes to jail because it’s done too fast, too sloppily.”

    7. The State will be required to invest between $20 and $50 million to establish an oversight commission before realizing one red cent in revenue from expanded gambling.

    6. Slot machines will signal the death knell of the racing industry in Massachusetts. Caesars Entertainment, the latest investor to join the ownership group at Suffolk Downs, has offered the State of Iowa $10 million to allow it to end dog racing in that state.

    5. Tourists won’t be coming to Boston for the casinos; the casino industry wants to come to Boston
    for the tourists. More people visit Faneuil Hall than Disney World every year. Solid data show that when casinos come to heritage tourism towns, visitation to the historic resources plummet as it did in Vicksburg, Miss., where 40 percent of the historic downtown is now shuttered. 

    4. Host communities are most directly impacted. Violent crime and calls to 911 increase dramatically over time, quickly outpacing any mitigation funding that is offered. Susan Mendenhall, former mayor of Foxwoods host community, Ledyard CT said gun and drug crimes are on the rise. She also added that emergency dispatch calls for police, fire and medical help have risen from about 3,000 to 15,000 a year since the casino was built.

    3. During the current economic downturn, casino states are seeing far greater budget shortfalls than
    is Massachusetts. This includes, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Nevada, which leads in this category with a 56% budget shortfall this fiscal year.

    2. It makes perfect logical sense for any individual, corporation or public entity to understand the
    costs of doing business before undertaking any new venture. New Hampshire has done this and Rhode Island is preparing to do the same. We in Massachusetts must understand what is in store for us before we make such an intractable change to the culture and character of this great State.

    1. The casino industry spent $6 million during the last legislative session trying to convince this body to enact expanded gambling legislation. If this were such a good idea, why would they need to spend a single penny? This body has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility to act on behalf of and in the best interests of the People of the Commonwealth. If expanded gambling legislation is passed without an independent analysis of the benefits as well as the costs having been completed, this body will have failed to protect the very people they serve.Testimony of John Ribeiro, Founder, Neighbors of Suffolk DownsBefore The Joint Committee on EconomicDevelopment and Emerging TechnologiesPublic Hearing on Expanded Gambling LegislationWednesday, May 4th 2011Top 10 Reasons To Support An Independent Cost Benefit Analysis10. The 1999 National Gambling Impact StudyCommission Had One Major Recommendation: that any State that was consideringexpanding gambling should understand not only the benefits but the cost ofgoing into business with the casino industry.9. The casino industry is a troubled industry. Mohegan Sun is $1.6 billion in debt and Moody’s has rated their stock just above junk bond status. The State of New Jersey is bailing out the casinos of Atlantic City. Casino revenue is down in nearly all established gambling states.8. Senate President Therese Murray, an ardent casino supporter, was quoted in February 2010expressing her concerns about corruption: “Every other state that’s done gaming, someone goes to jail because it’s done too fast, too sloppily.”7. The State will be required to invest between $20 and $50 million to establish an oversight commission before realizing one red cent in revenue from expanded gambling.6. Slot machines will signal the death knell of the racing industry in Massachusetts. Caesars Entertainment, the latest investor to join the ownership group at Suffolk Downs, has offered the State of Iowa $10 million to allow it to end dog racing in that state.5. Tourists won’t be coming to Boston for the casinos; the casino industry wants to come to Bostonfor the tourists. More people visit Faneuil Hall than Disney World every year. Solid data show that when casinos come to heritage tourism towns, visitation to the historic resources plummet as it did in Vicksburg, Miss., where 40 percent of the historic downtown is now shuttered. 4. Host communities are most directly impacted. Violent crime and calls to 911 increase dramatically over time, quickly outpacing any mitigation funding that is offered. Susan Mendenhall, former mayor of Foxwoods host community, Ledyard CT said gun and drug crimes are on the rise. She also added that emergency dispatch calls for police, fire and medical help have risen from about 3,000 to 15,000 a year since the casino was built.3. During the current economic downturn, casino states are seeing far greater budget shortfalls thanis Massachusetts. This includes, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Nevada, which leads in this category with a 56% budget shortfall this fiscal year.2. It makes perfect logical sense for any individual, corporation or public entity to understand thecosts of doing business before undertaking any new venture. New Hampshire has done this and Rhode Island is preparing to do the same. We in Massachusetts must understand what is in store for us before we make such an intractable change to the culture and character of this great State.1. The casino industry spent $6 million during the last legislative session trying to convince this body to enact expanded gambling legislation. If this were such a good idea, why would they need to spend a single penny? This body has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility to act on behalf of and in the best interests of the People of the Commonwealth. If expanded gambling legislation is passed without an independent analysis of the benefits as well as the costs having been completed, this body will have failed to protect the very people they serve.


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