It was killing me not to be able to blog about the recently released Spectrum Gaming Group report, which was commissioned by the Governor to tell him what he wanted to hear about Massachusetts' potential as a future gambling Mecca. Alas, I had other important things to do.
But, without reading the whole 300 pages, one thing about the report really stands out. Spectrum, the consulting group, lists on the front page of their web site, Kernzer International as one of their private clients.
The same company who's chairman is none other than billionaire bad boy and gambling visionary Sol Kernzer? The same developer behind South Africa's Sun City, Bahama's Atlantis, Connecticut's Mohegan Sun, and Rhode Island's ailing Twin Rivers?
The same guy who wants to put a Middleboro mega casino on the map?
Yes, that's the one.
So, how, exactly does this make Spectrum's report independent? Or balanced? And not just some 300 page roll of toilet paper?
Spectrum has responded to criticism about it's clientele by claiming that most of it's clients are not casino developers but 'governments.' I'd like to point out that most of these "governments" are 'gaming' agencies for a variety of states and nations which already offer forms gambling - and collect revenue from it.
But aside from that, it can be no insignificant matter that a big Daddy Warbucks like Kerzner International must certainly be an extremely valuable client asset to a company which pays it's bills by dispensing gambling expertise.
Let's face it - they're not exactly Price Waterhouse.
Which brings me to another point - why Spectrum Gaming Group? Why not an independent consultant? Back when I was a corporate cubicle jockey, we had an endless stream of independent consultants coming in and analyzing this that or the other thing. Analyzing is what they did. They might go talk to a company specializing in something as part of their research, but on the whole, they were "independent". There were no special interests dangling the purse strings.
And the beauty of having had an independent consultant assess Massachusetts's gambling potential, is that just one of those people compiling the report might - because they aren't immersed in the 'Wonder of it all', the acceptance of gambling as gospel, and the goose that lays their golden nest egg - consider social costs and impacts of mega casinos to be worth giving some weight. That just because you can't quantify every variable, or distill it into a dollar sign, that it doesn't belong on the balance sheet.
People have a lot of trouble with those unquantifiable thingys. I've seen it up close as I watched last summer's Casino Gambling Impact Study Group (precursor to the Casino Resort Advisory Committee or CRAC) find itself unable to come up with an answer to social costs. So, they threw up their hands and declared it out of their league. Which was bad enough - but then their chairman went and gave Middleboro a big thumbs up on the project based on their study. Which no one was asking them for.
So, why doesn't anyone ever do a study on that sort of intangible stuff? Oh that's right - they did. But still, no one has been able to come up with a better answer as how to 'mitigate' gambling addiction and broken families other than throwing therapy at it, or a fairer way to compensate the victims of crime than pretending it doesn't matter. Except of course, to not build casinos. To take the longer, harder, better road of encouraging responsible economic development for our State. Change can be good. But good change changes things for the better. And good change doesn't require a mop-up later, or 'mitigation', or 'therapy'.
I don't have any hard feelings toward Spectrum Gaming Group. They did exactly the sort of report the Governor wanted, and it was what you'd expect from, well... a gaming group. But I'm terribly annoyed at the Governor for spending $189,000 on something the rest of the world is going to tear apart. Here in the boonies, Governor, we could use that kind of coin to keep a senior center afloat. Or a library open.
And so, in the months to follow, as myself and others slog through Spectrum's 300 page report, keep in mind that the name Kerzner International, whose chairman wants to build an Indian Casino in Middleboro, shows up on the front page of their web site.
And could this, perhaps, be behind the reason that Spectrum's report differs from the advice of notorious commericial casino snake oil salesman Prof. Clyde Barrows in one major respect - by concluding that three casinos still make sense - but only if one of them is an Indian casino.
Hey, ya think?