Steve Wynn folds in Foxboro

May 9, 2012 11:58 am

Chalk one up for the little guys.

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn and New England Patroits owner Bob Kraft gave up on their plan to build a casino in Foxborough, Mass. after voters elected a slate of candidates opposed to a gambling hall in their rural neighborhood. The vote was a sharp rebuke for Wynn and Kraft and all but assured their casino plan would be rejected.

Casino bosses are used to getting their way, usually after greasing the political skids and touting inflated benefits. But the folks in Foxborough understood the social and economic costs of gambling outweigh any benefits. (The Globe has rightly called for a similar citywide vote on whether to allow a casino in Boston.)

Foxborough is a suburb of Boston that is more professional than working class. Casinos don’t usually try to locate in those kinds of markets, and the backlash in Foxborough explains why. Casino prefer desperate and downtrodden working-class towns and cities. (See post below on Chester, Pa.) Those locals welcome a casino because the political leadership there is often bankrupt of any good ideas on how to revive their economic fortunes. The unsophisticated residents also buy in to the notion that a casino will be a savior. Of course, everyone ends up poorer, except the casino owners.

So Wynn rolled craps in Foxborough. But don’t cry for the brash billionaire. Casino moguls have no conscience. Wynn will quickly move on. Like a bad penny, he will turn up in another town or city selling fool’s gold to anyone who will listen. As P.T. Barnum said: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

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.

Fool’s gold for Foxborough

March 12, 2012 11:42 am

Although this Boston Globe story on Steve Wynn is mostly a puff piece, there are some telling details in it.

For starters, Wynn’s father was a compulsive gambler. How a guy whose father was a gambling addict can get rich by preying on gamblers seems disturbing. Even more telling, Wynn doesn’t gamble himself. He knows it is a waste of money, though he says every once in a while he blows $20,000 or $30,000.

According to the Globe: Wynn said most people not only lose but they expect to lose. “The house has the edge, which is why they scream when they win – ‘Ah! We beat ’em. In spite of everything!’ (I think a lot of folks are desperate and believe they can beat the house and don’t realize how bad the odds are stacked against them.)

But the overall gist of the story is that Wynn builds fancy casinos and that somehow makes everything ok. (The piece glosses over the dueling lawsuits Wynn has with his biggest investor in which they both accuse each other of dubious business dealings to win government support for their casinos overseas. Not to mention, the fact that federal authorities are scrutinizing those deals.)

The piece also infers that if Foxborough residents go along with Wynn’s proposal to build a casino that they will end up with something akin to the Bellagio. But it’s a pretty good bet that a casino near a strip mall and a football stadium in the suburbs of Massachusetts will not resemble anythign like the Vegas strip. It will more likely be a fairly standard convenience casino – with some gaudy touches – designed to maximize revenue in large measure by extracting wealth from the locals who can least afford it.

Indeed, as Wynn told the Globe, he knows where the revenue comes from to build the casinos: “Thank God for the slot machines and the blackjack tables. Casinos make it possible to build non-casino stuff that otherwise would be uneconomic. And to me, that’s the only reason I’m in the gambling business.’’

Gee, dad would be so proud.