Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monson forum

There is a rather ridiculous on-line forum in greater Springfield area hosted by the regional newspaper and I am having a discussion with a gentleman that I recall being very concerned about his taxes and the condition of roads in our community. So, the previous post was in response to his asking about why I posted the link to the Reuters article. Then he replied with this:

Yes I was joking but only about the tickets covering revenue.

Middleborough is one of the other communities that is in the mix for hosting a casino. They recently completed a very thorough study of the potential impact of a casino in their town. I think the results are just as biased as many of the anti-casino research you are citing, but I also believe it adds a little balance to the conversation.

Feel free to visit the above link and see that while there are potential negatives to a casino placement for both the host community and the surrounding cities and towns, there are also some very real and very important benefits.

I am only going to address one of your most direct attacks on a casino placement in Palmer. You state that in CT the student population in the surrounding communities jumped enormously after the opening of the casinos. What you fail to refer to is the very rural character of both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun's communities. Being remote, the casino had to look far outside the local community to staff. As a result overtime folks that were employed in the casinos moved closer to both reduce their commutes and improve their quality of life. Your comments make no mention of the tax base impact this had or the reasoning for it's occurrence. Once again it's not a complete argument only designed to put fear into people's lives where non-need be. In Palmer conversely the infrastructure will and population density will make the likelihood of a huge influx of new students substantially lower than in CT.

The rest of your post is more of the same fear-mongering and distortions of fact. Read the Middleborough report and I think you can see that the gains will out weigh the costs.

Finally as I said in my first post, if Palmer and the local communities aren't savvy enough to make arrangements before the placement that protect them in a meaningful way from increased costs associated with the Casino then they will get what comes.

I know that means we should have faith in our elected officials, but since none of them are capable of a balanced discussion of this issue on either side that won't likely happen. If I were a Monson Select Board member, I would be forcing my way to the table to insure that my voice was heard constructively and supporting the casino if in fact it was developed responsibly by all parties.

So, it was imperative that I responded with this:

I just came home from a two hour meeting of the regional casino task force (WMCAT) comprised of 15 towns in the Quaboag region that includes people who personally have differing opinions on the casino issue. We have worked together for almost two years (no I don't get paid) to identify the concerns for mitigation to the towns in the region should expanded gambling/gaming become legal in Massachusetts. We finalized a letter listing 23 areas of concern.Your reply to my post indicates that you are not interested in discussing the issue and have made up your mind. I responded to you because I had found you previously open minded.

The Spectrum Gaming (casino industry experts) report commissioned by Governor Patrick to review his pro-posal for three resort casinos leans bias towards casinos, and the State of CT study is from the state's department of revenue. Your accusation that my post is "fear mongering and distortions of fact" is false.

"If I were a Monson Select Board member"

If you were a Monson Selectman, you would know that increased population particularly with children to educate, has a net negative impact on the town budget. Spectrum Gaming featured one town, of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, in their report and it was Monson. I wrote the study that they published highlighting the fiscal impacts on education. You can find it at Spectrum Gaming report).

If you read the link that I posted from the state of CT citing their documented revenues/expenses and impacts on the communities you would perhaps understand what was being posted. I am surprised to learn, as someone concerned about their tax dollars, that you have not done more research on this issue.

Fortunately for the taxpayers the "town" has been trying to protect it's financial interests through WMCAT and other initiatives.

I read the Middleborough study when it was released. Their Selectboard negotiated a lousy deal for 7 million dollars with criminals, in secret.


The WMCAT is a regional group of Selectmen, Town Councilors, and appointed officials from 15 towns in the Quaboag region studying the impacts of a potential casino/slot parlor on our communities.

We meet tonight at Monson Town Offices, 110 Main Street at 7pm.

It is an open meeting. Good opportunity to learn about the comprehensive fiscal impacts that affect host regions.

You were joking that traffic citations would cover costs in Monson, weren't you?

The net theoretical gain of having Masschusetts gamblers ($800 mill/year estimated going to CT) spending their money in MA might be as high as 27% (tax on the revenue), less those who would continue to prefer 'going-away'.

Let's say MA retained $200-270 mill. plus $125 mill per license-renewable every 10 years (going rate according to recent senate hearing testimony by casino industry) and two or three licenses are granted... we would be looking at $312 mill/year revenue for the state to close a growing $4 billion dollar deficit.

Do you think the revenues will stay locally to assist with mitigation of the costs to the municipalities? Of course not, it is the Boston agenda that has set this stage and there is no model anywhere of host regions receiving the funds necessary to mitigate the costs. The region would never see the full amount of funding needed for mitigation because the math does not work.

The AG would need to establish a Gaming Regulatory Commission (NJ employs 500 state workers for that task) which cost tens of millions of dollars per year. The AG has stated that new racketeering laws, RICO and money laundering and surveillance are needed if the Commonwealth goes in the direction of legalizing slots. Gov Patrick has stated that mitigation for increased gambling addiction (estimated by Prof. Goodman to cost the taxpayers $13,200 per addict/year in 1990's dollars) will be funded.

Anyone concerned about their taxes whether you gamble or not, would benefit from learning about local fiscal impacts on this issue. The town would have more demand on it's services without sufficient increased aid to offset the demands.

Up to 12,600 new students were estimated to come with new workers in the Spectrum Gaming analysis of the Governor's 3 casino proposal. Let's say only 2,000 new students come to our region...Monson taxpayers pay for over 30% of each students PPE, the state pays the balance with exceptions for special education that may be much more costly.

Housing, infrastructure, education, public safety, transportation, sanitation, water (Palmer does not have sufficient water to host a casino), air pollution (9,000-12,000 visitors per day).

CT Div. of Special Revenue study of casinos and gambling recently released reveal that the host regions have been "enormously" underfunded.

Check out pages 135-136 contributions to municipalities"The casino revenue split between the state and Connecticut municipalities was initially tilted in favor of municipalities. In 1994, for example, nearly 80 percent of the $113 million collected went to the municipalities. Just two years later, the split was two thirds state, one third municipalities. Since then, the state has continued to keep more and more of the pie. The state‘s share in FY 2008 was nearly 80 percent.

The dollar amount flowing into the state‘s General Fund has increased from $24 million in FY 1994 to $340 million in FY 2007, a more than 13-fold increase.By comparison, the state‘s municipalities have seen their take stay relatively constant. In FY 2007, the municipalities split $86.3 million, $2 million less than they received in 1994. The amount of money set aside for Connecticut municipalities is approved each year by the General Assembly."

Pioneer Institute (conservative think tank) has research on the increase in high school drop out rates for host regions to slots/casinos.

There are some things we do know about expanded gambling that should give us pause.
As tax policy, gambling is among the most regressive tax, taking a disproportionate share of revenues
from the elderly and low- and moderate-income families.
As social policy, we know that gambling is bad for kids and families. Teenagers and casino employees are the most vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers. Today 1.1 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 12 and 18 are pathological gamblers. As they get older they will swell the ranks of adult problem gamblers, now numbering between 1.8 and 2.5 million. As fiscal policy, the prospects
are also fuzzy. Indications are that gambling revenues level off after a few years. Consequently, expanding gambling will not help solve the State’s fiscal crisis, but will rather serve as a smokescreen of the serious structural imbalance between overall state spending and the ability of our economy to support it. New casinos have not prevented large budget deficits in Illinois or neighboring