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Casinos won't save unemployed

Date: 6/14/2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

I'm not much of a gambler.

During my first trip to Las Vegas I burned my way through a roll of quarters. That's right, $10.

On other trips I played nickel slots. Oh yes, just call me "Slick."

Gambling holds little appeal to me and a little goes a long way. I see nothing wrong with it, though. I'm not morally opposed to casinos. The folks who talk about gambling addictions should include dismantling the state lottery as part of their agenda as well as opposing casinos.

Does gambling have serious impacts on people? Heck, yes. But if we are going to sell alcohol and tobacco, then I think gambling should also be legal. Prohibition doesn't work. We've seen that.

I do believe Massachusetts should have the framework in place to license casinos.

The casino issue does concern me on several grounds. First, in this economic climate when elected officials talk about job development and mention casinos, let's be clear: casinos are years away.

The Legislature, from what I've heard, may not have a bill until much later this year. Then Gov. Deval Patrick must approve it. Then the issue of attracting potential developers is another step.

Granted some of the casino developers would move quickly, but quickly may be two years away or more.

So please don't wave this in front of us as job development we can count on now. It's not. The emphasis should be on what the state can do right now to make Massachusetts a better place to do business -- to keep existing companies here and to encourage their recovery and growth.

My second concern is whether or not Western Massachusetts gets a casino. Western Massachusetts does not include Worcester or any community in Worcester country. This region is comprised of the four most western counties.

We need our fair share. A casino here would serve the Albany area as well as southern Vermont and northern Connecticut.

Any bill that doesn't specifically cite the four western counties as a site for one of the one or two casinos is a bill that doesn't address the economic development needs of this area. Any politician who doesn't see that simple fact is not someone who is representing the state's interests as a whole.

What astounds me is that we've been talking about this subject for years and we've made so little headway. We're not inventing the wheel here. Plenty of other states have set legal precedent on how to establish casino gambling. Others have done the heavy lifting.

So instead we're left with the arguments of whether it's "good" -- it's gambling, for heaven's sake, an adult activity with serious pitfalls -- and how many casinos do we have and where do we put them.

Now that is the real struggle folks. That's where the politics come in.

Here's another thought: if the parade of governors and legislators we've had for the past 40 years or so hadn't done their part in setting into motion the environment that has driven businesses out of the state, perhaps we wouldn't be so excited about potential careers as dealers and in the hospitality industries.

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