Roman Catholic Bishops Call for Down Vote on Gambling in Massachusetts
Roman Catholic bishops in Massachusetts are calling for citizens to vote in favor of repeal in the November ballet issue. Several of the state’s Catholic leaders have said that the gambling industry would threaten local businesses, while bringing a litany of social ills.
The Catholic clergy who have joined to express their opinions include the Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Worchester Bishop Robert McManus, and Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski. Reverend George Coleman, the Apostolic Administrator at Fall River, also joined the complain. The clerics said gambling “fundamentally alters communities” and “weakens the moral fabric of society”.
Catholic Clergy Warn about Immorality
Not on do the Catholic leaders believe casino gambling is immoral, but they also believe it makes little economic sense. The group cited the failing economy of Atlantic City, which is going to have 5 of its 12 casinos close their doors by the end of the year. Gaming revenues have declined in other regional casinos, such as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
Boston Economy Better Than in 2014
Set against that is the economic picture of Boston and the wider Massachusetts area. When the casino law was approved by voters in 2011, the economy of Massachusetts was in deep trouble. In the middle of those troubles, the clerics say a casino seemed like an easy way to create jobs and raise new funds for the state.
Three years later, the Boston economy has recovered significantly. With new prosperity, the bishops urge voters to voted down the casino bill as an unwanted and unneeded inclusion to the local economy.
The bishops expressed a deep concern about problem gambling. They are afraid that a casino in Everett or Revere would rely on the losses of gambling addicts. Many of these addicts are likely to be from the poorest Boston communities, so casino profits are tied to the suffering of local families.
Laws exist to fine and censure casinos which accept known problem gamblers. The problem is, many compulsive gamblers don’t want to admit they have a problem, so many cases so undiagnosed. Even when a person has addictive history, some casino staff have encouraged such activity. The fines tend to be small in comparison to the potential profits and most abuse of the system goes unreported, so problem gambling is an issue the clergymen have major concerns about.
Proponents of Massachusetts casino counter the bishops’ complaints with compelling arguments of their own. For instance, they point out that a new casino in the Boston metropolitan area would bring thousands of construction jobs, as well as thousands of perpetual jobs working at the casino. They also point out that a Boston casino would bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue in each–taxes which voters wouldn’t have to supply themselves.
Other counter-arguments have been made against the Atlantic City comparison. One of the reasons the Boardwalk casinos could not succeed is the fact 12 was too many in the Alantic City area. Boston will get one casino, so there should be more than enough gamblers to sustain either the Wynn Resorts or Mohegan Sun casino operation.
$1 Billion in Gambling Money Goes Out-of-State
One compelling statistic seems to undermine the bishops’ argument. Justin Griffin of the Committee to Protect Massachusetts Jobs pointed out that over $1 billion leaves the state each year, because Massachusetts gamblers have no place to gamble.
The casino project in Boston is likely to retain that money, and these are dedicated gamblers already. Griffin added, “We respect the Bishops’ opinion, however we believe that casino gaming thoughtfully introduced in the way this plan does recaptures much of the almost $1 billion that Massachusetts residents spend each year at gaming facilities in other New England states and in the process creates much needed jobs for communities such as Springfield.”
These are perennial issues when the subject of casino gambling is discussed. Free societies have to set a line in public policy in which people are protected and safe, yet at liberty to pursue their happiness. In a community where people are free to make their own economic choices, some people will make bad choices. Opponents of a Boston-area casino believe a line is crossed when the government joins with business interests to exploit people, though, and they believe a casino is a vehicle for exploitation.
Proponents of the casino would argue that the same casino would bring jobs to thousands and a venue for entertainment and leisure for hundreds of thousands of others–most of whom do not having gambling problems. They cite statistics which show 1% to 2% of gamblers are thought to be compulsive gamblers. They also point out that, while most of the 98% to 99% of patrons are likely to stay away from gambling if no casino exists, a compulsive gambler is quite likely to find ways to gamble. If they go to underground gaming locations and illegal bookies for their betting thrill, they are much less likely to get the help they need than they would in a regulated gaming environment.
Under those circumstances, it makes no sense to block a licensed and regulated Boston-area casino for that 1% of gamblers with issues.
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