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Pro- or anti-casino? Make up your mind

Date: 6/12/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

So what is it Massachusetts? Do we like the idea of casino gaming or do we hate it?

I’m a little confused. I thought casino gaming was going to be a big boost to the state’s economy and employ thousands of people. I thought we needed this revenue on both the municipal and state levels. I thought that no community that didn’t want a casino would be forced to have one.

Weren’t they going to be our new best friends? According to a poll conducted by the Boston Herald and Suffolk University that is no longer the case.

Joe Battenfeld wrote in the June 9 edition of The Boston Herald, “The Suffolk/Herald poll conducted last week shows Bay State voters oppose casinos by a 47-37 percent margin, a near reversal of sentiment. In February, a Suffolk/Herald poll had voters approving of casinos by a 51-37 margin.”

Battenfeld then tied Attorney General Martha Coakley’s chances as being elected governor to this changing opinion, since some of Coakley’s gubernatorial opponents have identified themselves an anti-casino.

What has made voters change their minds? The story didn’t reveal the motivations behind the switch.  I’m sure anti-casino folks believe that Massachusetts residents are finally seeing the light about what casinos can and can not bring to the economic development table.

What I wonder is how many people who may’ve been sitting on the fence or casino opponents have come down on the other side because of the process that has been involved?

Seldom in my life have I seen a more tortuous public procedure unfold than the operations of the Gaming Commission. It has moved at the speed of a glacier and the chair should have been replaced for his conflict of interest months ago. There are some very good people on the commission and perhaps in unguarded moments they would express their own concerns.

Their charge shouldn’t have been to re-invent the wheel. Many other states have models of casino development and approval.

And while people who are anti-casino are promoting support for the repeal question that may appear on the ballot, I find it grimly amusing that not a single legislator who worked on the casino bill or supported it is receiving any public criticism. If they have, I certainly haven’t seen any.

The Legislature created the bill, passed it and the governor signed it. Deval Patrick is bowing out of gubernatorial politics, but aren’t the men and women who made the bill a reality still in office? Are they being challenged? Ah, no.

As a Springfield resident I have a horse in this race. The proposed casino is about a 15-minute walk from my home. I shop in the South End. I’m worried about the impact the casino will have on traffic and small business. I’m not convinced the MGM plan will actually help other businesses or attractions.

I’m also very concerned about how some economic development projects are in a state of suspended animation. What is happening with the redevelopment of 31 Elm St., the former office and hotel building at Court Square? What is the progress of the conversion of the former School Department headquarters on State Street? I’ve done one story on the construction of market rate apartments there but nothing is going on now. That’s the building the city sold for $1 in exchange for a timely redevelopment. It hasn’t happened.

We really need to fish or cut bait on this issue, Massachusetts, but I’m afraid we are in for a prolonged new debate on casinos that will dominate the summer. As it goes on, you might see certain economic projects slow to a crawl.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.