A GAMBLING ARMS RACE
...the weak economy and rising unemployment are combining with heavier competition among casinos to shrink the number of gamblers and the size of their wagers.
On June 10, 2010 the RI House endorsed a bill to seek voter approval for converting the state's two slot parlors, Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand in Newport, into full-scale casinos. Supporters see casinos as a way to raise revenue for the state and say Rhode Island could lose out if neighboring Massachusetts approves expanded gambling.
At a June 2009 Mass. legislative hearing, both Spectrum Gaming and Dr. Robert Goodman (author of "The Luck Business"
) agreed that expansion of gambling tends to cause an arms race wherever it goes.
For instance, when Pennsylvania installed 60,000 slot machines to 'recapture' revenue going to slot parlors in Delaware and casinos in New Jersey - both Delaware and West Virginia legalized table games to compete.
To compete, Pennsylvania also legalized table games.
"...a lot of Pennsylvania residents are visiting casinos in West Virginia to play table games. "Those are dollars driving right past Pennsylvania casinos and into nearby West Virginia. That is a clear disadvantage,"
David La Torre,
spokesman for The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
Sound familiar? Massachusetts regularly revisits the slots debate when it feels too much of it's own revenue may be slipping over the border to Connecticut. New Hampshire's pro-casino lobby waits to see what Massachusetts' votes on every slot bill - anticipating a potential slot bill of their own to (you guessed it) 'recapture' in-state gamblers and their money.
A RACE TO THE BOTTOM
- In California, to create more gamblers and increase revenue to the state, the gambling age was lowered to 18.
- Midwest riverboat casinos, originally intended to float down the river and return patrons after a set time, became 'boats in a moat' - full-fledged permanently-docked casinos sitting in one foot of water.
- Iowa and Illinois have also abandoned formerly imposed wagering or loss limits. Measures like these have "partly resulted in existing gamblers losing more money as opposed to increasing the number of gamblers."
- Connecticut recently attempted to extend casino liquor hours to 24/7 to shore up a multi-million dollar state budget deficit.
- In pursuit of more revenue, New Jersey has repealed a smoking ban that had been put in place to protect casino workers.
Casino Owners Trump Smoking Ban
November 17, 2008
The New Jersey casino owners themselves are delighted because they had been arguing that out-of-state gambling arcades did not have a ban and, therefore, were not competing on a "level playing field".
Trump Entertainment Resorts - headed by Donald Trump - was particularly vocal in its objection.
Newly appointed CEO Mark Juliano argued that the industry as a whole was experiencing a 4% decline and a smoking ban would only make matters worse.
(The City Council) insisted that it had a duty of care to protect workers within the casinos, whose health could be at risk from the continuous smoke.
That was before the credit crunch. Now the city's authorities have had a change of heart.
Meanwhile, with ambitious promises of generating funds for educational incentives, last year pro-casino forces in Maryland convinced voters to legalize slots there
in order to compete with New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - only to discover they couldn't sell the licences.
2 slots bidders did not pay fees
By Gadi Dechter, Julie Bykowicz and Laura Smitherman
February 4, 2009
Prospects for a near-term gambling windfall in Maryland fizzled yesterday as state officials acknowledged that two of six bidders for gambling licenses failed to submit millions of dollars in legally required fees and that Baltimore's applicant is proposing a small, 500-machine parlor, not a 3,750-machine one.
Lawmakers in Annapolis reacted with disappointment as bad news trickled out during the day. After years of debate, Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment in November legalizing slot machine gambling, and state officials have been counting on an estimated $600million in annual slots-related tax revenue to support schools and close a yawning budget gap.
A push by "officials looking to help solve Connecticut's multibillion-dollar deficit"
to extend liquor hours to 24/7 in Connecticut was cut short only after a patron leaving Mohegan Sun plowed into a van full of college students, killing one of them.
Now wait just one minute...
Doesn't Connecticut host two of the World's largest casinos? And isn't that where all of our State's gambling dollars - the one's we're supposed to re-capture with expanding gambling - are supposedly ending up? So ok, maybe Senator Rosenberg can explain how the State of Connecticut could possibly be in such a hole with all that money that that they'd actually consider legalizing 24/7 drinking at two of the world's largest casinos?
And does that mean Massachusetts would go down that road too?
And where, exactly, does that road end?