Voter backlash against casino

May 8, 2012 1:44 pm

Here’s some insight into why elected officials go to great lengths to keep voters from deciding whether to allow casinos: Voters in Foxboro, Mass. overwhelmingly backed a slate of casino opponents in the town selectmen’s race on Monday.

The vote was big setback to Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn’s plan to team with New England Patroits owner Bob Kraft to bring a casino to Foxboro. “Monday’s election was the first time local voters have weighed in on a casino proposal since Massachusetts’ expanded gambling law passed last year,” The Boston Globe reported. ”The voting margins seemed to confirm academic studies that suggest casino opponents are highly motivated voters who turn out in great percentages.”

Elected officials know that most voters oppose casinos because they know the problems outweigh the benefits. That’s why in many states, lawmakers hold late-night votes and cut backroom deals when it comes to casinos. The last thing elected officials or casino operators want is a full, fair, open, honest and independent debate about the social and economic impact of casinos.

In fact, Massachusetts officials essentially crafted the casino law in secret before ramming it through the state House and Senate. The measure was influenced by casino industry lobbyists, and not the public good. A similar playbook has been followed in other states, including Pennsylvania, where lawmakers legalized gambling in a late-night vote that avoided little public debate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is following the same road map in New York, though voters there will have the final say. Of course, by then the casino industry will have spent millions of dollars shaping public opinion, while the state avoids an independent analysis regarding the true costs of gambling.

Death threat over casino vote

April 19, 2012 10:22 am

Tensions are running alarmingly high in the fight to bring a casino to Foxboro, Mass. A man wielding a hatchet threatened to kill one of the Foxboro selectman to vote in favor of the casino plan that is being pushed by Las Vagas mogul Steve Wynn and Patroits owner Robert Kraft.

“If you don’t change your (expletive) vote … you’re a dead man,” Michael Viscardi, 40, told Selectman Mark Sullivan on Sunday, according to a police report.

Sullivan and Viscardi are neighbors. Or were neighbors. Sullivan moved his family after Viscardi’s threat. Sullivan is seen as the deciding vote on the Foxboro casino, which has divided the town. Many citizens rightly understand the long-term downsides of a casino don’t outwiegh the short-term benefits of extra tax dollars and some jobs.

The death threat is an extreme example of the high stakes surrounding the spread of casinos. But the reality is, casino – in many ways – have been known to cause their own death and destcrution. Studies show that where casino locate, there is an increase in crime, divorce, bankruptcy and suicide. Sullivan gets that and should be applauded for standing up for what is right in the face of a death threat.

Backroom casino efforts

December 21, 2011 11:06 am

Looks like casino mogul Steve Wynn and New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft got a lesson in the Sunshine Law when they tried to schedule a conference call with all five Foxboro selectman.

Just dial 1-800-LOBBY.

Guess Wynn and Kraft forgot that public officials are supposed to do the public’s business in public. But Wynn lives and Vegas and, really, who the heck wants to schlep to the backwoods of Foxboro? It’s so much easier to work out these casino deals in the backroom. Can’t we just phone it in? One everything is ironed out, then hold the public meeting.

Wynn says the conference call was an innocent mistake and that the five selectman were included in the invitation by accident. Sure, and gambling in a casino is guaranteed to make you rich.

This is just beginning of the backroom wheeling and dealing that will take place in Massachusetts as casino owners jockey to get a coveted casino license. Often, the elected officials – the chief enablers of gambling – are happy to do as they are told by the casino interests who have flooded their campaign coffers with large donations.

When the casino money talks, the Sunshine Law takes a walk.