Deval Wimps Out on Gaming

TonyGovernor Deval Patrick expressed reservations yesterday about licensing a casino in any Massachusetts city, clouding the prospects for hotly debated proposals to build resort-style gambling complexes in Boston and New Bedford.

“I have some misgivings about a casino in any city, because I think the whole point is to create a resort destination,” Patrick said during an hourlong appearance on WBUR-FM, a local public radio affiliate. “And I don’t think there is a city in Massachusetts that has enough space for that kind of facility, with the entertainment and the meeting venues and maybe a golf course, the restaurants, a hotel – the whole resort complex.”

The statement appeared to be a shift for the governor, who opened the door to an urban casino when he announced last week that he wanted to license casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston.

from the Boston Globe

Suddenly our bold, free-thinking Guv is having second thoughts about letting Atlantic City into the East Boston waterfront. Could it be a case of NIMBY? Too close for comfort? Keeping the rhuemy rummies, hacks, touts and two-bit pony players camped out on the fringes of the city has worked for decades, but modern gambling is a far cry from the daily double and a coffee-stained Racing Form, and won’t be so easy to overlook.

Wake up, Guv, it’s the wave of the future. Quit the wimpy whining and grab the bull by the horns! Multiple casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston is a good start, but let’s not forget the Cape, the Blue Hills and the New York State border!

We can see long rows of slot machines at Logan, welcoming vacationers and entertaining business travelers caught waiting for overbooked flights or lost luggage. Whole families could enjoy the facilities if you would just sponsor a very reasonable law allowing children into the casinos, as long as they didn’t actually bet, and were accompanied by their families.

Then we could allow a limited number of slot machines, 4 or 5 say, into convenience stores and gas station Quiki-Marts, so that people who feel that gaming itch at odd hours or on the road can get relief right away. After all, lottery tickets are already on sale at all those spots! Why should they have a monopoly?

Hotels and bars would also be natural spots for a few slot machines, or maybe a roulette wheel or two. Keno and March Madness have already proven the inevitability of betting in bars and in hotels, and especially in hotel bars. Lonely traveling salesmen, rich foreign tourists and honest working folk would all be lining up to try their luck.

Actually, we feel that the present plan, to build a few mega-resort casinos with indoor waterfalls and golf courses is a bit discriminatory, to say the least. Not everybody is a Donald Trump or an O.J. Simpson who can just saunter into one of those places and do as they please. Some of us like our vices with a bit less luxury and closer to home.

Why not allow storefront mini-casinos in lots of the nooks and crannies of our bustling metropolis? Especially in economically distressed areas, where empty storefronts are endemic, a few thriving new businesses like mini-casinos could invigorate the economy, revitalize the street life, and encourage ancillary businesses like pawn shops and massage parlors.

Why, with the bursting of the real estate bubble, there must be hundreds of prefect properties, warehouses down on the waterfront, empty stores in suburban malls, bankrupt boutiques in the trendier sections.

Bowling alleys, retirement communities and fitness centers are other possible sites for gaming centers. Some spots might not merit a permanent presence, and so mobile mini-casinos, housed in two or three brightly painted semi-trucks, capable of being unloaded and set up as a complete gaming complex in an hour could be moved from place to place. This would allow the state to set up shop in Lowell on Cinco de Mayo, for example, or outside housing projects the days the benefit checks arrive.

It’s this kind of bold thinking that we need if we want to hit the jackpot with this whole gambling thing. The opportunities are so immense an immediate that even we are unable to imagine all the marvelous things that will come to pass once the door has been opened to gambling. In fact, we’d be willing to bet on it.

About dowbrigade

Semi-retired academic from Harvard, Boston University, Fulbright Commission, Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manta, currently columnist for El Diario de Portoviejo and La Marea de Manta.
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