05/04/2011

Testimony Opposes Expanded Gambling May 2011

I have been, and remain, strongly opposed to bringing casinos and slot machines to our state because of the negative, costly impacts I think it will have on small businesses and our local communities.

Whether or not to expand gambling in Massachusetts is a topic that’s been hotly debated for years. I expect my colleagues on the Committee – particularly those who have served on this committee before – already have a good idea of what you’re going to hear today.

Proponents of casinos will talk about the studies they haveproduced, I would point out, by firms and research centers that have received funding from gambling interests or have casinos as clients – that say gambling will produce jobs and revenue.

Opponents like myself will cite studies from academic researchers that point out the increases we see in crime, gambling addiction rates, social costs, and the loss of revenue for local businesses.

What’s missing in this debate – what’s always been missing – is an independent cost-benefit analysis of the effect that expanding gambling would have on Massachusetts, produced by an impartial source that all sides can trust.

Sometimes proponents of gambling will say “this issue has been studied to death! Let’s just pass it and be done with it.”

But the problem is that there’ve been too many “benefit-only” analyses conducted for Massachusetts– and although we have books and books filled with academic research demonstrating the serious costs to expanding gambling, we don’t have a Massachusetts-specific “cost” analysis to match the benefit analyses.

As a result, it’s hard to weigh the two – costs, and benefits – in an even-handed way. It’s easy to get excited by the promises of revenue and jobs, and ignore the serious negatives externalities that will come with them.

When our neighbor to the north, New Hampshire, decided to do an independent cost-benefit analysis, they concluded that the total costs – from crime, from lost business productivity, from the need to expand government regulation – would outweigh the total revenue benefits.

At the end of the day, if we expand gambling in this state, the casino industry will make billions in profit off of Massachusetts residents, sucking money away from local businesses while increasing costs for local communities and harming many local families.

Before we make such a big decision with such a lasting impact on our state, why not produce a truly independent cost-benefit analysis so we can have a REAL look at what we’re getting?

Senator Brewer has filed a bill this session – S150, which is before your committee – that would do just this.

I’d urge you to report that bill out favorably and wait for the study to occur before you even considering reporting out any other bill expanding gambling in the Commonwealth.

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