Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rhymes with Spectrum

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?

It doesn't.

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?


Irish Rover said...

there is no substitute for fiscal responsibility.

Middleboro Review said...

Gladys, As usual, you have raised great points about the poor choice of Spectrum Gaming Group and the disappointing (but not surprising) report.
In time, I have no doubt that you and others will tackle that 300 pages and raise additional issues, much as already has about the associated education costs. Monson, like Middleboro, MIGHT have to build a new school with an influx of students.
For $189,000, it would have been nice if valid numbers had been used for the quantifiable costs.
I might be less peeved if the Governor had bought more drapes.

lisa said...

irish rover, your comment caught my eye. Is anyone paying attention to California's Governor? And California has casino gambling. And other states with casino gambling are faring worse than Mass. States that have welcomed casinos are doing worse in a wide range of categories-crime, education, addiction. Look at the stats from Nevada. Education stinks. Jobs other than the casinos dont exist. Get a life and cut expenses! Boston increased pensions to please the unions in an election year. If the state Republican Party put up some decent candidates, they just might get elected.

Anonymous said...

It is a gambling oversight website in Detroit Michigan, which keeps track of the cast of characters and their civic/political and gambling relationships. It is a good place to revisit and should be a reminder to all of us that there was a strange association between Michigan and Middleboro.

In fact, Middleboro has "39 tags" on this site.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered by those in Middleboro accountable for "fiscal responsibility". And I still want to know how a character from Michigan got involved with our land deal sale.....

Spectrum has done plenty of business in Michigan and has been very influential. The gaming industry is just not that big and many of the characters are recycled from state to state.

Doesn't anybody wonder why a BOS with ties back to Michigan is the chief promoter of gaming in Middleboro?

carverchick said...

Why am I not surprised by any of this? I have not read the report, only the executive summary but once again, "independent" seems to have conveniently been left out of the "study".

The upside? well, at least the Governor has cooled his jets regarding compact negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. He has decided to wait for the LIT decision. If this report had anything to do with this change of heart, then I am okay with that. I have faith that our legislature will see this report for what it is....toilet paper (good one Gladys).

Dan Kennedy said...

I haven't read the report either, but that hasn't stopped me from blogging about it. When the governor hires the casino industry to report on whether casinos would be a good idea, there's really no reason to wade through 300 pages.