Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Postcards from the Edge

I have a lot of observations about all the hearings and events of the past two weeks, and plan on blogging them (after I get a little rest). But for now, here is a quick wrap-up of last night's BIA scoping session which was a really great experience. Thanks to all of you who came out and either spoke or supported those who did.

Anti-Casino Synopsis:

· A mega casino on the site in Middleboro will harm the environment, in numerous, well documented ways.
· We love our home.
· We love Middleboro.
· The Tribe hasn’t kept its promises.
· The process was flawed and rushed.
· Where the hell are the REAL plans so we can assess REAL impacts.
· We care about wildlife.
· The Deal with the Tribe doesn’t leave any money for Middleboro.
· A casino will hurt surrounding communities in numerous ways.
· My home has lost it's value because it's near the casino project.
· We care about social issues.
· Property near the casino could be taken by eminent domain.
· Real Indians don’t build casinos.
· A casino could mean more underage gambling.
· Water in South Eastern Mass is not an unlimited resource.
· The site in Middleboro would be bad for any development.
· Traffic, crime and social problems will increase with a mega casino.
· There is no Federal land in Massachusetts, so please go back home and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
· The Mashpee Wampanoags home is in Mashpee. This is OUR home.

Pro-Casino Synopsis

· Anti-casino people are racists, terrorists and liars.
· Colleges are worse than casinos.
· Any job is a good job.
· The Mashpee Wampanoags are coming home.
· Indians care more about the land than white people so if they want to build a casino it must be OK.
· If you don’t like it here, move.
· A casino will be good – because we say so!
· People who live in subdivisions shouldn’t throw stones at casinos.
· Mitigation money or enough therapy can solve anything.
· Casinos are good for the real estate market.
· A mega casino will help surrounding communities.
· What environment?
· Indians good, original settlers bad.
· We want our casino.
· Our home stinks and a casino would make it so much better.
· What impacts, there’s no impacts.
· I’ve been to places with casinos – they’re nice.
· Crown Colony Plaza in Kingston is the same thing as a casino.
· If a casino comes, the rivers will run with chocolate, dollar bills will fall from the sky like manna from heaven, the sun will never set, the streets will be paved with gold, and peace and harmony and all sorts of wonderfulness will follow us like soft little baby lambs all the days of our lives.

Get those letters in people! Get them there before April 9th and send them 'Receipt Requested' or 'Certified'!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

(well... one of them, anyway...)

This evening the Massachusetts House voted 106-48 to defeat Governor Patrick's three casino bill!

Good work everyone!

And THANK YOU Massachusetts House!

Thank all 106 of you for doing the right thing. Standing up to special interests and the repeated MYTH OF INEVITABILITY. Tonight you have echoed the spirit of those who founded this Commonwealth. I'm proud to be on your side - and proud to call the great State of Massachusetts home!


Monday, March 17, 2008

The DiMasi Code

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Massachusetts: Proud Home of The Lobster Ranch

In response to the Governor Spitzer prostitution scandal the late night news program Nightline dug up and carted out former high-profile Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss to offer her expert testimony as to why prestigious and powerful men often seem so hopelessly drawn to the world’s oldest profession.

At the start of the interview, Terry Moran beamed unabashedly, tickled no doubt at the potential for whatever salacious industry insights Ms. Fliess was poised to provide.

However, only seconds into the interview, the slouching, disdainful one-time madam-to-the-stars opened what turned out to be an unapolegetic potty mouth, and no amount of scrambling on the part of Moran could successfully redirect the vulgar expert testimony - proving once again that no matter how sophisticated the sex business often tries to portray itself, it really just isn’t.

But in between Moran's efforts to squeeze something more from Fleiss than merely her blunt, one-sentence theory of mankind's inability to embrace monogamy, Heidi said something really quite remarkable.

According to Heidi, State governments were making a big mistake by not legalizing prostitution. In fact they were missing the boat on a perfectly good revenue stream!

Hey! Where have I heard something like this before?

“Look at Nevada!” she exclaimed, pointing out the infamous Bunny Ranch as a model of success.

And then it all becomes clear.

States should legalize prostitution because obviously everyone’s already doing it anyway.

...So why not sell licenses? But do it right That's the key!

Offer them to organized professional entertainment establishments. Five star deluxe resort brothels - just like the Bunny Ranch. Have states regulate them to make sure all is on the up and up. Tax a percentage of the revenue. Just think of all the jobs! Why, it’s an economic engine! One where you can really get a bang for your buck.

And isn’t that what we're all being lead to believe a revenue stream ought to be?

Take something currently illegal, slap the word ‘deluxe’ or 'resort' on it, package it as fun, sell it to the masses, say it will solve all your problems, stick it out in the country away from large voting blocs, convince them it's inevitable anyway, and do it all before anyone realizes they could soon be raising their kids next to one.

And voila! You’ve built Fort Knox in your own backyard.


Well, apparently, Heidi Fleiss and our own Governor Deval Patrick share a vision.

But I suppose, once you lower your standards, that’s bound to happen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tingle all the Way!

I thought some of you might enjoy this new video!

Watch the Video Here

Bet on the State! Not on Casinos!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Blog is a Harsh Mistress

For the record, I don’t just write a blog. I’ve also written countless letters and editorials. Held a sign on sidewalks and at the Statehouse. Stood in the sun for hours collecting signatures. Created factsheets and handouts. Done my share of data entry. Traveled from town to town and down to DC. I put out an electronic newsletter. I’ve researched, rallied, fundraised, and strategized. And I go to a hell of a lot of meetings.

But to most people lately, I'm a blogger.

I became a blogger because the Brockton Enterprise kept editing the editorials I sent them, or wouldn’t print them at all. And I became a blogger so that I could tell people what was really going on in Middleboro. I became a blogger because the media wasn’t telling the whole story.

But I kept blogging because I saw how it made a difference.

I've been blogging on countless issues in the casino debate since last June. And since then, I’d like to think I made some people laugh, and maybe offered some hope along the way, too. Maybe I’ve given folks something to chew on or maybe even told them something interesting that they didn’t know before.

Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond however, blogging less than a month, has (surprise)insinuated that anti-casino folks have a lot in common with the Third Reich.

And now Adam, who has been causing jaws to drop since last summer with his offensive remarks, is suddenly making a plea for ‘ civility in the debate.’

And who is standing in the way of civil debate? Well, apparently it’s me.

You see, one of the best things about being a blogger, or a late night talk show host for that matter, is the ability to hold elected officials accountable for the things they do.

My blog doesn’t pick on the little guy. I think it’s fair to say that through the magic of PhotoShop, I could have easily ridiculed any number of non-elected pro-casino advocates. In fact, I’ve been asked to do just that many times. But I’ve chosen not to, despite the fact that I haven’t always received the same courtesy. Because ultimately, they, like me, are just citizens speaking out about issues that are important to them.

We can’t make policy or sign multi-million dollar agreements, or bring gambling to the Bay State. We can't personallly usher in giant mega casinos which could potentially harm our environment and permanently alter our quality of life.

So we do what we can.

But apparently, according to Adam, it’s Gladys who crosses the line.

Because, one day not long ago, I’d stumbled upon Adam’s web site for his law practice, which made it clear that not only does Mr. Bond mingle his responsibilities as an elected official and his legal career and his tireless crusade for a casino, he actually throws them all into a blender and hits the “liquefy” button.

And I felt then, and still do, that this isn't merely inappropriate, it's probably unethical.

Subsequently, I wrote a blog called Adam’s New Tool. The blog was accompanied by a little graphic of an office door imprinted with the name of an Adam Bond law firm, followed by a comma, followed by the old lawyer joke: “Dewy, Cheatum, and Howe”.

Adam hates this graphic about as much as I hate the idea of living near a casino. And he wants the graphic to go away as much as I’d like to see the casino evaporate.

But do I think Adam “Cheats ‘em?”

I think the agreement Adam helped draft, and which he campaigned for, took professional credit for on his site, and eagerly signed on July 28th with a smile on his face does cheat the people of Middleboro. I think it cheats them out of their rights to be fairly represented by the folks they elected to do just that. I think Adam’s headlong rush into the agreement cheated many people of the opportunity to become better educated about what a mega resort casino could do to their town, and it cheated the Casino Advisory Committee of the adequate time they needed to assess potential impacts. And I think agreeing to an annual payment of only $20,00 to combat gambling addiction clearly cheats those future gambling addicts and their families a mega casino will generate.

And if he’d just left it at that, it would have been bad enough. But then he went and took credit for all of it on his day job web site. Of all the offensive things Bond has said or done in the course of this debate, that's the one that did it for me.

I had a front row seat to the events that transpired this summer. And it was clear to me that Adam enjoyed being the selectman with the law degree. Because he could stand up and do the PowerPoint presentation. He could negotiate behind closed doors, hobnob with the other lawyers, understand all the latin words, and contribute in ways the other selectmen couldn’t. He was in his element. And I don’t blame him for any of that.

But why the rush? And why wasn't it enough to help a casino come to town, and for the Tribe to pay the town for that privilege. Why add Section 22, Undertakings of the Town, to the agreement? Because section 22 makes it clear who’s the boss, and guess what – unless you’re a casino, it ain’t you.

So, what happens if a casino doesn’t turn out to be a good neighbor?

And what happens if, in the future, Middleboro voters elect an individual running on an anti-casino platform? Is that person still obligated, by virtue of the agreement, Section 22 D, to support it anyway, despite obvious obligations to represent the desires of his or her constituents? Does that sound fair to you? It doesn’t even sound American to me.

And as bad as I originally thought the agreement was last summer, the more I learn as time goes by, the more I think Adam Bond represented Glenn Marshall and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe far better than he did the people who elected him to do the best thing for his town.

Do I think Adam did his due diligence for the people of Middleboro? If so, then why was it so necessary to rush a town meeting that by very virtue of its timing shut out many Middleboro voters? And why on earth was the Tribe’s timeline running the show and not the people of Middleboro? Because the Tribe would leave and go to New Bedford? They were never going to go to New Bedford. The Tribe still doesn’t want to go to New Bedford. If tomorrow the Governor told them to take their casino to New Bedford, Scott Fearson would probably file a lawsuit and claim he was a racist.

So why didn’t Adam hold any informational forums for the public that presented viewpoints other than that of Glenn Marshall and a bunch of Lawyers? Or have taken the time, like some people did, to look into whether Indian Casinos really are a done deal? (Because they’re NOT!)

If, in Adam’s mind, he is a conquering hero for the ”political marketing of the casino concept” and because he “participated in the logistical set up and execution of the largest Town Meeting ever held in Massachusetts”( which a lot of people couldn’t go to and caused some of those who did to require emergency medical treatment), well that is all just fine and dandy.

But that’s not what happened. He parlayed the whole thing into an advertisement for his law practice.

So, who's crossing the line?

I ask myself, why didn’t Adam ever make the effort to present a balanced debate to the public? And why did he flinch and come up with a much better contract for the Tribe the first time they threatened to bolt? I mean, it's a negotiation, right? Isn't there is an expectation of a certain amount of back and forth in high level negotiations? And what was the real need for the rush to get that agreement signed?

Mr. Bond may be a great lawyer for all I know. He's argued before the Supreme Court for heaven's sake! And I think he probably started out wanting to be a good selectman. But I also believe, at a certain point, his ego became more important than the people he was elected to represent. And after that, I don’t think he wanted the casino to go away, and nothing that anyone could have done or said would have made a difference.

And maybe that doesn't trouble him. But that little office door on my blog does.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Freedom Players

Slot machines are what you might call a cash cow.

Operating a bunch of slot machines is pretty much the closest thing there is to printing your own money.

The hell with table games. Slot machines are the economic engines driving casinos. People sit down at a machine, put their money in, and go home.

Try to imagine how much money has to jingle down their little mechanical throats, even with the occasional regurgitation, in order to build those sparkling glass towers, to offer all those plentiful comps, and to afford lavish lifestyles for their owners.

Even fractions of their potential earnings have been enough to buy governments. In 1992 the Governor of Connecticut sold his state to the casinos to cover a $150,000 budget shortfall, while present Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick upped the ante to $450 Million and the cost of a license.

Slot machines have created billionaires, torn apart towns, devastated families and destroyed lives. All in the name of some harmless entertainment.

Because, wherever someone plug in a slot machine, there will be addiction. No one even disputes that anymore.

There will also be more crime, divorce, bankruptcies, foreclosures, child neglect, spousal abuse, broken families, and suicide.

Deval Patrick, the feel good Governor, has magnanimously offered to divert $50 Million in aid to help the slot machine's best clientele – the gambling addict. Well… at least those gambling addicts who actually seek help.

But there’s nothing for the families. Nothing for the employers. Nothing for the friends. Nothing for the victims of their crimes. Nothing for all those who suffer from the actions of gambling addicts.

Slot machines don’t play fair. They are designed to make people think that they’ve almost won. And so they’ll put more money in and play again. Because, eventually, it has to pay off. Right? Someone has to win. That’s what they call the chase and it’s what brings people back, and what makes some of them steal from employers and friends and families and even their own children so they can keep feeding the machine.

It’s what makes the billionaires richer while the states which allow slots grow poorer. Initial profits, like those sounds and lights on a slot machine, distract our elected leaders from the realities and drown out the opposition while casino impacts build, become more insidious, and require mitigation. Budgets always manage to live up to the initial gambling windfall. Taxes will be raised. Gambling expanded. And still, the house always wins.

It’s the casino food chain.

Slot machine revenue can be so blindingly lucrative, and casino interests so influential to legislators across this country that every cent that’s “played” might be considered yet another cent stolen from our liberties.

Just look at our own Governor - buying in to those wildly distorted numbers, tuning into the investors, and trying to convince the House and Senate that casinos are inevitable because of Indian tribes, even though he knows better. He now spends his days evangelizing his "brilliant" casino buy-out plan as our only salvation, despite being elected to his office as a symbol of inspiration. As a result, he has become the object of harsh criticism from his own party, including some of his most devoted supporters. And still, he keeps chasing the money, pulling out all the stops on his stump for three mega-resort casinos.

But now, a small group of people have gone to the very heart of the gambling debate in our country. Ordinary people who’ve put their foot down on that manipulative little swindler known as the modern day slot machine.

The Freedom Players.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why Casinos are Not Inevitable in Massachusetts

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Last May a lawyer told the town of Middleboro that an Indian casino within their borders was “a done deal”.

Governor Patrick and others have since signed onto that assertion, and now want to head Indian gaming off at the pass by establishing a trio of commercial, state-run casinos.

Further obscuring the issue are the morass of Indian Gaming laws, the subject of Land into Trust, statutes, rulings, precedent and acts of Congress which make the matter difficult to understand.

If we look to Connecticut, our neighbor to the south, and home to two of the world’s largest casinos, it might appear that tribal casinos are holding the cards.

It’s not the easiest thing to explain, but in the end, the real answer is, no - casinos are not inevitable in Massachusetts. It is absolutely NOT a done deal. And here’s proof.

1.) Myth - Tribal casinos can offer slots even if they’re not legal in the host State

The Johnson Act 0f 1951 prohibits slot machines on federal land including Indian Reservations and supports states which refuse to legalize slot machines. The Indian Regulatory Gaming Act of 1988 does not repeal this Act. So, in order for a state to circumvent the Johnson Act, the State legislature must legalize level III gambling (Vegas style slot machines).

Florida had consistently managed to keep the Seminole tribe from winning their bid to bring slots to the state. The Tribe was allowed to offer level II gambling (the much less lucrative bingo slots) which managed to attract gamblers in Florida mainly because it was the only game in town. But Vegas-style slots are where the big money is. The courts, however, consistently backed Florida by ruling that the State did not have to sign a compact for expanded gambling with the Tribe.

But then… Florida went and allowed slots at the racetracks. Ba Da Bing. Florida had to deal and Seminole Slot parlors got the green light.

It should be noted that Massachusetts currently has 2 recognized Indian Tribes. There are 6 other Tribes which could seek recognition. Approving slots at the racetracks could open the door to 8 Massachusetts casinos.

No Slots = No Casinos

2.) Myth – States must sign a compact for gaming with recognized Tribes

The Kikapoo Tribe of Texas wanted to open casinos offering Vegas-style slots despite the fact that level three gambling was illegal in Texas. Like Massachusetts.

A compact is necessary for a recognized sovereign nation to operate gambling operations. The State refused to sign a compact with the Tribe . So, the Department of the Interior created the compact, anyway. The State balked at this affront to its own sovereign status, and the 5th Circuit court of Appeals agreed.

“The Secretary may not decide the state’s good faith; may not require or name a mediator, and may not pull out of thin air the compact provisions that he is empowered to enforce. ”

Two Texas tribes opened Class III casinos anyway, and were ordered to shut down.

"To infer from this limited authority that the Secretary was implicitly delegated the ability to promulgate a wholesale substitute for the judicial process amounts to logical alchemy."

Standing Your Ground = No Casinos

3.) Myth – States with charity ‘Vegas Nights” open the door to slots at tribal casinos

Texas, like Massachusetts, has a lottery and Vegas Nights (one night licenses to operate slot machines for charity) but slots are illegal. Tribes there tried to prove that this created precedent for allowing tribal there casinos to offer slots. But courts disagreed that this wasn’t a compelling argument since Texas has shown a consistent history of opposing level III gambling. Like Massachusetts,

Consistent Opposition to Legalized Gambling = No Casinos

4.) Myth – A casino can go up anywhere

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Carcieri v. Kempthorne. The case argues that the Federal government cannot take land into trust (thereby removing it from the tax roles) for Indian Tribes in the original colonies because, due to settlement acts in those colonies which predated the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, Tribes in those States have extinguished their claims to such land - even if they were to become federally recognized at a later date.

Massachusetts has signed on to this case and so, if the court rules for Carcieri – land in Massachusetts cannot be taken into trust. A decision will probably not be forthcoming until next year.

Continuing to Toss Tea in the Harbor = No Casinos

5.) Myth – What happened in Connecticut will happen in Massachusetts

In 1992 the Pequot Indian Tribe of Connecticut wanted to install slot machines at its Foxwoods bingo hall. They promised Governor Weicker, who was facing a severe budget shortfall, the exact amount of the shortfall or 25% of the slot revenue, whichever was greater.

The Tribe claimed that Connecticut would eventually be required to negotiate a gaming compact anyway (which as you have seen here is not true) so it would be in the States best interest to accept the deal.

Does this sound familiar?

The Legislature would not legalize slots, so the Governor, determined to get his budget money anyway, sidestepped them and signed a pact with the Pequots to give them exclusive rights to slots.

Of course, this later opened the door for the Mohegans.

Connecticut is now dependent on slot revenue, tribal influence is a strong factor in state affairs, state run gambling addiction centers have increased in number from 1 to 16, and taxes are still higher than in Massachusetts.

Governor Opposes Level III Gambling = No casinos

6.) Myth - A Tribe’s application for Land–into–Trust automatically results in a casino

Each application for Land into Trust is reviewed independently. And each case is different.

Opposition from surrounding communities has been able to prevent Indian casinos. There is currently opposition in the communities surrounding Middleboro, and seven towns have voted to oppose a Middleboro casino.

Inability to prove a historical connection to the land will prevent off-reservation land from being taken into trust. The Mashpee Wampanoag’s historical connection to the land in Middleboro is tenuous at best, and in fact their application for recognition didn’t even mention a connection to Middleboro.

In addition, their application is requesting two initial reservations. A highly unusual action which should send up a red flag.

An extensive Environmental Impact Study is required before land can be taken into trust, and there are cases of these studies taking many years and still holding up casinos.

Members of the legislature, local officials, citizens and environmental groups, and even concerned individuals from the host and surrounding communities can write letters to the Department of the Interior opposing applications for land into trust.

Recently the Secretary of the Department of Interior has made it more difficult for Tribes to take land into Trust. Newly issued regulations led to the rejection of 11 tribal applications for land into trust. The practice of ‘Reservation Shopping’ finally may be coming under fire. A closer inspection of the new guidelines reveals that there will be “greater scrutiny” of benefits and “greater weight” to state and local governments.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the land in Middleboro is not even owned by the Tribe. It is owned by their investors.

The intent of Indian gaming laws were to provide needed remedy and relief for remote and impoverished tribes. Not to help wealthy casino investors fill suburbia with the world's biggest casinos.

No Land into Trust = No Casinos

7.) Myth – Commercial casinos will prevent Indian casinos

Commercial casinos may provide the State with more money than Indian casinos, but they won’t prevent Indian casinos. If fact, they’ll make Indian casinos all the more likely because the door to legalizing level III gambling will have been opened, therefore making the State's refusal to negotiate a tribal gaming compact more difficult to defend.

For instance, Michigan, which has commercial casinos, also has Indian Tribes competing to build off-reservation casinos, like the Mashpee Wampanoags, closer to more lucrative markets.

A Governor can refuse to allow Indian casinos in Massachusetts by refusing to negotiate a compact with the Tribe. He or she does not need to establish commercial casinos in order to do this. Doing so is an artificial and inaccurate rationalization used to justify establishing a permanent statewide casino-based economy for the purpose of bolstering attempts to fill a temporary budget shortfall.

No Commercial Casinos = No Casinos (Period.)


Legalizing Slots Anywhere = Casinos everywhere
Getting suckered into thinking casinos are inevitable = Casinos
Letting your guard down = Casinos
Letting the Federal Government tell the State what to do = Casinos
Governor gets greedy = Casinos
No Opposition to Land Into Trust = Casinos

Commercial Casinos = Casinos (Period.)

*Click Here for a .pdf version of this blog you can print out and share