Urban or suburban casinos?
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission believes that locale may be the key to a successful gaming operation for casinos in Massachusetts. To this end, the commission is exploring whether or not the three casinos it will ultimately sanction in Massachusetts should be located or rather, be hidden away in heavy woods out of reach of urban life or should locate in the heart of bustling cities like Boston.
"Mind boggling" is how this decision, among many, many others, was termed the commission must make in a Boston Globe article published over the weekend. It is hardly mind boggling.
The idea that casino location in cities or in the woods could be key to their ultimate success, are questions that were answered decades ago by casino operations that flourished then and which flourish now all over Europe. In nearly all the great and many minor cities of Europe, and in former castles hidden away in the European countryside, casinos exist and they flourish. They offer jobs and a flow of enormous tax revenues almost wherever they are in operation.
On the storied French Riviera or in London and Paris there are dozens of casinos operating as adjuncts to the tourist industry in those places and in many, many others. On the Riviera, for instance, on the famous walkway along the Mediterranean in Cannes, nearly every major hotel - from one corner to the next - hosts a casino operation that enhances the tourist experience. In London and in Paris the same is true. In Europe, the casino experience is the same as it will be here - no one is handcuffed and forced to enter a casino. It is there if you want to go. If its presence reviles you, you stay away.
Only in America is the debate over location considered significant enough to cause applications and licensing for casinos to take up to three to four years or to face discussion endlessly for decades. But then, here in Massachusetts, casino applicants applying for licenses in Boston - EastBoston/Revere, Everett and in the woods in Milford 25 miles away -must contend with the reality of communities in which opponents of casino gambling power opposition that is woven into the fabric of American culture. Ergo - the lengthy and vituperative debates about where to locate casinos or to allow them at all in Massachusetts.
There is not a hint of doubt that the Gaming Commission is internally and externally discussing and exploring which venue will be more compatible with creating jobs, new taxes, and entertainment and gambling venues that work without further clogging up urban areas with added traffic, more tourists, visitors and gamblers as well as crime and social dysfunction and everything else that comes with casino development. This is a given expressed privately and more so publicly lately by the commission.
Nearly every lobbyist working for casino development understands this is a factor in the commission's application process - woods versus cities - which is better?
To a greater extent, in the eastern gaming region set up by the legislature, the question is whether or not the people of East Boston/Revere, Everett and Milford, will vote to allow casino gaming in their respective locations. Right now, the opposition to casino gambling in those communities is galvanizing. To date, opposition to casino gambling has not been so forceful or public as the business efforts as well as government to get the industry going in order to create jobs and new taxes, profits and investment wealth. The expectation is that referendums ordered by gaming laws will partly determine where casinos can be located and then it is up to the commission to make final determinations as to which place is best.
Again, it is mind boggling to deal with a reality like the Massachusetts Lottery, with 7400 locations which earned $1 billion last year in net profits redistributed to the cities and towns of Massachusetts without little more than a blink of the eye from gambling opponents. Gambling opponents in East Boston/Revere, Everett and in Milford are now attempting to gain traction with the rank and file residents of those places who feel gambling is a detriment to their communities. Will opponents create enough opposition, or does enough opposition to casino gambling already exist in these places to sink a referendum allowing them? Frankly, it appears unlikely but anything can happen as it did in Foxboro, where residents there sent Steve Wynn and Robert Kraft packing.
In the meantime, the commission is pulling its hair out wondering whether or not a casino in a city or a rural area will do while in most other places on this earth, casinos live side by side with lotteries and other forms of gambling without much interest or care - except for jobs and revenues, investment wealth and expanded tourist value.