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September 26, 2013
Casino: Bad News For Boston
By Rick Winterson

But the next few days will be quiet, while the campaigns for the General Elections on November 5 pause for a moment to gather steam for their final run.  South Boston Online wants to use this opportunity to share our opinions with you, our readers, about locating a casino in Boston.

We firmly believe that building a casino anywhere in Boston is a bad idea.  Although there are a few advantages to the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs, the negatives outweigh the positives by a wide margin.  In addition, even though a casino could affect other areas of Boston, we think that only the residents of East Boston should vote to approve or reject the casino.  They’ll be the people most drastically impacted, after all. 

In the first place, Boston is not a “casino city”.  We don’t need a casino; a casino just doesn’t fit what we are.  That statement might be considered “Conservative” or even “Old-fashioned”, but how about better sounding words like “Contextual” or “Preservation”?  They also fit this issue.

No, people come to Boston because it’s a beehive of innovations and entrepreneurial successes.  It has the finest universities and medical facilities, not just in America but anywhere in the world.  Professional people come to Boston for meetings and conferences of national and global importance. We have a superb location, on a waterfront with excellent amenities, which are steadily growing and improving.  Boston boasts the finest array of sports teams in America.  Even more important, Boston’s cultural scene – world class symphony, ballet, opera, theater, museums, shopping, great historic significance, and so on – attracts a far larger number of visitors than Boston’s athletic events.  Casinos need not apply. 

The estimate of $1 Billion ($1,000,000,000) in yearly revenues, which is part of the Suffolk Downs casino proposal submitted by Caesars Entertainment, is very, very optimistic.  Right now, no single casino in America or indeed in the world achieves that much revenue.  A few, much larger casinos once reached that mark before the Great Recession, but no longer.  And any new casino will be cannibalized by the existing casinos in Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as the two others proposed for Massachusetts and a possible gambling facility in New Hampshire.  All of these are (or will be) only an hour or two from East Boston and Suffolk Downs.

Even if that $1 Billion revenue figure is attained, the maximum payment to the City of Boston by Caesars will only be $52 million ($52,000,000) per year.  That sounds like a lot of money, but it amounts to just five cents on every gambling dollar pulled in by Caesars, and it’s less than 2% of Boston’s current $2.8 Billion budget.  By the time the casino gets built, inflation will have long since wiped out any monetary benefits to the City.

South Boston Online apologizes for using so many figures, but frankly, $52 million from Caesars Entertainment is peanuts (!) – it won’t even cover the cost of bussing our kids to school every year.  For this we should sell our City’s soul?  South Boston Online doesn’t think so.We admit there are benefits to any new enterprise, even a casino.  Jobs – up to 4,000 – and local spending by casino visitors are among those benefits.  But casinos have their downsides, too:  Addictions to gambling, money taken from households, gambling among youth, and ultimately, poverty and bankruptcy for some.  How serious will these problems be in Boston?  We don’t know, but we know they’ll happen.  And they will certainly reduce any economic benefits from a Boston-based casino.

South Boston Online further believes that voting on the casino issue should be limited to East Boston residents.  We hope they say “No” on November 5, but it’s their call.  Do you remember ten years ago, when there was a possibility that the Red Sox and the Patriots would relocate to South Boston?  South Boston residents would have been outraged if West Roxbury, Allston/Brighton, or even the South End had tried to horn in on that decision.

No, it’s East Boston’s business, not ours, whether a casino is built at Suffolk Downs.  And make no mistake – East Boston’s residents and their small businesses will have to live with the proposed casino.  They will be the ones to suffer.  What a shame it would be if Santarpio’s had to close because Caesars Entertainment’s casino at Suffolk Downs offered free pizza to slots players.

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