Wednesday, in an interview with WBUR, Senate President Therese Murray said that casinos are inevitable.
A spokesman clarified Thursday that Murray believed both a vote on casinos and the facilities themselves are foregone conclusions. Murray did not specify a timeframe.
Sen. Murray was using step one in the old expanded gambling playbook. I blogged about this last May, which just happened to mark the beginning of my third year battling an industry which once tried to convince me that a Native American casino in my neck of the woods was inevitable (it wasn't). This is the short version.
- Create a sense of inevitability.
- Wave inordinately large amounts of money in front of our most vulnerable citizens - State legislators.
- Inflate the numbers.
- Employ union "influence".
- Repeat the word "jobs" as much as possible. In fact, launch a website called "Coalition for Jobs and Growth" - but only because "Coalition for Crime and Corruption" doesn't sound as appealing.
- All promises are meant to be nebulous.
- Wheel out Prof. Clyde Barrow (still widely believed to be a policy analyst rather than an industry operative) at least once a month to insist our State pockets are being picked by Connecticut casinos.
- Blow off all casino opposition as bible thumping bleeding hearts without a clue as to how the big boys balance budgets. Employ copious eye rolling here.
- Avoid mentioning any associated costs. Deny them if necessary.
- If step 7 is not possible, with a serious face, insist mitigation will contain any conceivable costs.
- If discussing costs does become painfully necessary, try to make such cost sound like a benefit (e.g. the beneficial stimulation effect of slot machine noise on otherwise shut-in seniors.)
- Capitalize on the media's apparent unwillingness to give equal time to the opposition view, and that of of decision makers to educate themselves.
- While actual bullying isn't recommended, a centrally located shell office in a target community can often achieve the same result.
- Remember - it's not gambling, it's 'gaming' - but more importantly, it's always just "entertainment."
- When studies are required, leave out those pesky "social costs" by insisting they are too difficult and cumbersome to measure - and therefore don't exist or are, at a minimum hard to prove. Better yet, imply "social costs" = nothing of great importance to the rest of us.
- Never dismiss the power of free donuts.
- If these steps fail, return to step 1.
- Rinse. Repeat.
Because people will tend to think she 'knows something' that can only be a mystery to those of us outside the Statehouse, step 1 is a valuable tool in Sen. Murray's hands.
So, some people will believe it's futile to put up a fight. Support of, and donations to, excellent anti-predatory gambling organizations like United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts will be reduced.
Murray doesn't want you to put up a fight because that sort of thing could lead to a definite lack of inevitability which conflicts with her desire for casinos.
The inevitability brigade knows that the opposition is making strides.
A vote has been pushed to next year in order to give the pro-gambling lobby time to re-tool it's message, to work it's expensive magic on more legislators, to keep the party together for elections. They know that even they can't agree on whether to root for casinos or slots or where to put them.
So they pull out the handbook and punt.
Another thing Sen. Murray has going for her with the inevitability device is that the majority of the public doesn't have confidence in the folks at the Statehouse not to cave to the desires of a powerful and well funded industry.
In other words, it is inevitable in both the public's and Sen. Murray's mind that she and others in our legislature lack the backbone necessary to defy a powerful lobby and call for an independent blue ribbon panel to carefully study and weigh real costs and benefits before making an irreparable decision that could effect the quality of life here in Massachusetts.
Because in my experience with this issue, the only thing inevitable about it - are the consequences.