Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Factory





Cut and paste this short (2 minutes) video link and send it to your friends and legislators!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5YxWDyaMOg



Friday, March 12, 2010

Marchellaneous

So much in the news, so little time to blog.

Bob DeLeo's recent announcement that he'll cram through file legislation to expand gambling in Massachusetts to include 2 resort casinos (locations unknown) and slots at all 4 of the State's racetracks has grabbed headlines this month. But, in the rest of the vast expanded-gambling universe, lots of other news is being made.

For instance, in Rhode Island, lawmakers are attempting to divine the burnt entrails of DeLeo's pending legislation in hopes of insulating their own economy from
the long-term from the negative economic impacts that will result from potential casinos in Massachusetts and continued gaming resort expansion in Connecticut
Likewise, you can file this one under "gambling arms race" and " deja vu all over again":
Will this be the year the New Hampshire House of Representatives ends its long-running opposition to expanded gambling? It still isn’t likely, but there were some encouraging signs besides the several hundred supporters who packed historic Representatives Hall on Thursday for the public hearing on the mega-slots and casino-style games bill of Manchester Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro.
Meanwhile, the great state o' Maine continues to debate the obvious:
The release of data showing that more than 1,200 Mainers called a national hot line for problem gamblers last year has lawmakers renewing debate over the funding level for state help programs.

...calls to the national phone line have grown consistently since the Hollywood Slots facility in Bangor started to operate in 2005, with calls jumping from 118 in 2004 to 1,008 in 2007.

“And last year, it was up to 1,263 calls,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone can say there is not a gambling problem here; of course there is a problem.”

Over in the Keystone State, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is opposing Parx Casino's bid to add 80 live and electronic table games until the casino gives some much needed TLC to the adjoining Philadelphia Park Racetrack.
Parx is the most profitable and successful casino in Pennsylvania, generating nearly 20 percent of all slots revenue in the state, executives testified.

If that’s true, Ballezzi countered, Parx should be able to maintain the 36 barns and 12 dormitories in the backstretch of its adjoining Philadelphia Park Racetrack.

Ballezzi presented the Pennsylvania Casino Control Board with copies of letters to casino management along with a list of more than 280 maintenance requests submitted last year. Some buildings look like their about to collapse...
And, if you were wondering what makes a casino "the most profitable and successful casino in Pennsylvania," well, it's not the "Whales" - it's the "local low rollers" - apparently the same type financially-strapped little guy that Bob DeLeo's gambling initiative is supposed to help.
"We underestimated significantly how many trips our customers were going to make," Jonas said at last month's Pennsylvania Gaming Congress in Valley Forge.

"When I was in Atlantic City, to have 12 to 15 trips out of customers, they were VIPs," Jonas said. At Parx, "it's not uncommon for us to have 150 to 200 trips."
Trips? Huh? Is that an industry term? Like 'gaming' instead of 'gambling'? Like 'glassware' instead of 'bong'?
Moderator Michael Pollock, a well-regarded casino analyst, paused to digest the statistic.

"You said 150 to 200 times a year," he repeated. "That's three to four times a week, essentially."

"Yes," Jonas confirmed, most of his players fit that profile. In fact, because Parx players tend to live within 20 miles of Street Road, many go even more frequently.

"We have customers," Jonas boasted, "who give us $25, $30 five times a week."
Which causes columnist Monica Yant Kinney to reflect that,
Besides work and the gym, there's no place I go three to five times a week. And, beyond Target and Wegmans, nowhere I drop as much cash.

Jonas should be proud of Parx's haul. But if frequency can portend problem gambling, should he - and we - worry about thousands of people who've made playing a way of daily life? It didn't take much to lure them, beyond proximity, free valet parking, and $50 comps. "If you live 15 minutes away, you really don't need a room," Jonas told the casino group. His customers "come in, grab a hot dog or maybe a chicken sandwich," gamble three hours, "then go home and sleep in their own bed."
But wait... Six-hundred or so miles away from Parx, over in my neck of the woods, owners of small local businesses seem to feel a slot parlor at the Raynham Dog Track is the path to prosperity.
Young Yeom, owner of the Hyasi Sushi & Japanese restaurant in South Easton, about two miles north of the track, also said slots would be a good idea, especially since dog racing didn’t do much for her upscale sushi restaurant.

"Their customers are not our customers," she said. "But I think slots (would help)." Jing Huang, owner of Yummy House, a Chinese restaurant a mile and a half south of Raynham Park, is impatient with the whole question, saying officials have been teasing people for years with the possibility of expanded gaming.

He thinks his business, which sits just north of I-495, would stand to benefit greatly from the extra traffic.
Most local business owners don't really understand the gambling industry's business model - it's not your typical industry - but United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, the state-wide expanded gambling opposition group does - and offers new page on it's web site outlining how both slot parlors and resort casinos cost their host and surrounding communities - including case studies of the Foxwoods experience in Connecticut and a racino in Bangor Maine.

Indeed, the owners of those eateries around Raynham might be interested to know that,
Bangor restaurants are not seeing any benefit from Hollywood Slots. In fact, a February 2009 article in the Bangor Daily News chronicled the fate of eight restaurants that had recently closed their doors or reduced their services.
Still, for those who imagine a city casino the cure for urban blight, consider the case of Detroit, MI, as recalled in a new memoir released last month, "Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen," by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Sandra Adell.
The area around MotorCity (casino), which occupies the former Wonder Bread factory, looks like a wasteland, with weed-infested fields, borded -up houses, and abandoned buildings everywhere. Each casino is conveiniently located near expressways so out-of-town gamblers - the tourists - can take their money and run and never see the blight the millions of dollars they leave behind have yet to eradicate.

But because some businesses are more equal than others, let's not forget that slot parlors and casinos often receive unfair competitive advantages over local business in the name of boosting state revenue.

Two years ago, Iowa legislators banned smoking in most public places. Iowa casinos are one of the few places where smokers can still light up indoors. Michael Galloway believes it’s helped keep business booming at Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino in Altoona. Galloway is the chairman of Prairie Meadows’ Board of Directors.

“I think our attendance has stayed pretty strong, even through the bad economy…so maybe part of it is attributable to the ability for people to smoke and game,” Galloway said. There are 1,900 slot machines inside the casino and most of them have an ash tray within reach.

Yeah, who needs public health inititives anyway?

File the next two under "irony".

Just two days after this appeared in the Taunton Gazette...
As expected, House Speaker Robert DeLeo earlier this week declared his intention to push for legalizing both slot machine parlors and resort casinos in Massachusetts, a move which could extend the life of Raynham’s ailing greyhound dog track.
... this appeared in the Pawtucket Times
The bill, which would be incorporated into Carcieri’s revised budget for the current year, would eliminate dog racing at the facility and forbid it in the future, cut in half the current number of mandated employees (suspended for the time being) at the venue from 1,300 to 650, and hike the amount the state agrees to pay in management and marketing fees to the facility.
A day later, State House News service served up even more irony.

Bob DeLeo, who represents a district with two ractracks, and oddly enough won't even consider establishing a commission to perform an independent cost-benefit analysis of how expanded gambling might effect the rest of Massachusetts, was speaking on WRKO-AM when host Charley Manning pointed out the close proximity of Plainridge to the Raynham-Taunton racetrack, and Suffolk Downs to Wonderland. But DeLeo is unconcerned because
he expected geographic separation to apply to the two casinos he will propose, which he called the “bigger product.” DeLeo said, “There’s probably going to be a limited number of slots.” DeLeo said “some” had asked for the Legislature to get involved in casino siting, but indicated he would like to leave siting issues, as well as applicant background checks, to a commission. “I don’t really think that that is our role,” he said, referring to the idea of the Legislature stipulating casino locations.
Apparently the role of the legislature is to sound a lot like gambling industry insiders.

But clearly, unlike initiating State-wide gambling legislation without the benefit of an independent analysis, applicant background checks are something to be left to professionals.
The FBI in Cleveland isn't waiting for a casino to be built -- temporary or otherwise -- to make a pre-emptive strike.

Agents recently met with Cavs owner and casino builder Dan Gilbert and his staff to prepare them for the ways crime can creep into the casino scene.

"This isn't our first rodeo," said Cleveland FBI agent-in-charge Frank Figliuzzi. "The FBI around the country and around the world has a history with casino operations."

He said Gilbert and his security staff came to FBI headquarters on Lakeside Avenue "and they received a briefing on historical issues that we have seen arise in cities that have taken on casino gaming."

Figliuzzi said those issues include organized crime, union and labor issues and various corruption schemes that have arisen in other cities.

He added, "We want to make the players aware of what these things look like when and if they see them occurring, and sensitizing them to some of the issues that could occur early on, based on what the FBI around the country has seen." Vigilance begins with the hiring process: "We've seen casinos compromised from within," Figliuzzi said.
Gosh, that's comforting. Goodness knows we could all use more crime. Like embezzlement.
Pokrywczynski told a federal judge that he stole because he needed cash to gamble at casinos. He is the latest of several local people convicted of large-scale embezzlements linked to legalized casino gambling.

"I've had at least 10 cases like this, and we're seeing more of them," said Thomas J. Eoannou, attorney for Pokrywczynski. "And a lot of them are people who have never broken the law before in their lives."
But what's a potential crime wave if it brings more decent jobs to the State, right? And we sure need decent jobs because according to the Massachusetts Economic Independence Index released this week by Crittenton Women’s Union, a "Boston-based nonprofit innovator in breaking the cycle of poverty",
a single parent with two children needs an annual income of $61,618 in Massachusetts just to get by.
Ooops.

Did they say $61,618? Because, according to the 2007 National Compensation Survey compiled by the US Dept of Labor's Division of Labor Statistics, the annual median earnings of gaming service employees is $13,179. And even Forbes puts 'gaming dealer' on it's list of lowest paying jobs in America.

Maybe, instead of spending so much of his (and our) energy promoting jobs that create crime and won't put food on the table, perhaps Bob DeLeo could find a way to create jobs with that cool-sounding "bigger product" - because the CWU also published a list of Hot Jobs list... which means occupations that
require two years or less of higher education that pay at the Mass. Index level and have more than a 100 vacancies statewide—down from 26 three years ago.
The Hot Jobs list, sadly, doesn't include those that would be created by expanded gambling - unless of course you count Correctional Officers and Jailers.

Oh and hey, in addition to criminals and low-paying jobs, you know what we could use more of?

That's right - less performing arts.
Arts advocates are convinced that gambling, whether in the form of "resort-style" casinos or race-track slot parlors, will cut directly into the money that households spend on the arts. Their fear is that a green light for gambling will be the death knell for performing-arts centers and organizations, both large and small, which are already suffering financially.

One reason for the fears of theater owners in particular is that state casinos might include performance arenas, which in their opinion will provide unfair competition — unfair because, for the casinos, entertainment is a loss leader to bring people onto the premises to gamble. Casinos can thus offer more money to performers, and charge less to patrons, than standalone performance centers can.
But not to fear, local theatre aficionados because,
Falzone's report, a draft of which has been seen by some in the arts community, will recommend ways that a gaming bill could mitigate the effects on the performing-arts community — perhaps by devoting a portion of the revenue stream from gaming directly to nonprofit performing-arts facilities, or by implementing some type of ban on performance venues in casinos.
Which is awesome - except for a little thing called "reality".
Still, that won't be good enough for some should gaming get its foot in the door. "Remember the arts lottery," warns Poulos. The lottery was once meant to funnel money to the arts; as other needs arose, that flow was shut off in the early 1990s.
Two stakeholders in Worcester's Hanover Theatre weigh in with a little reality check of their own.
We urge you not to be distracted by all of the noise about casino gambling in Massachusetts and do your own research. Look at New London, Conn., where more than 30 restaurants closed following the opening of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Look at Cripple Creek, Colo., whose once-thriving downtown went from 66 restaurants to less than 10. Look at performing arts centers in other cities where the impact from nearby resort casinos has been devastating. It took us less than an hour on the phone with managers of theatres in Reading, Pa., Fresno, Calif., and Ames, Iowa, to be convinced.
Not to worry. According to Joe Pacheco, aide to Bridgewater's Dave Flynn (D - Slots),
any gambling bill would also likely have a provision allowing residents in the host city or town to vote “yes” or “no” on the project.

“There has to be something to cover the interest of the community,” he said.
Yup, no doubt just like like they did in Middleoboro - where a favorable vote on a ballot initiative was secured by promising voters a billion-dollar casino with 5 star restaurants, a hotel, arena and water park, that, one year later had become a small casino with some food service.

And speaking of securing that vote, you may remember having heard from Scott Ferson, then-spokesperson for the Mashpee Wampanaog Tribe, who, from his Liberty Square office, would regularly shake down Middleboro residents with manufactured information, fractured facts and good old intimidation. But these days, Scott's positively brimming with indignation over Deval Patrick's opposition to slot parlors...
“The governor will fight like hell to save 100 jobs at a hotel,” said Scott Ferson, a spokesman for Raynham Park owner George Carney, former aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and outside adviser to the Patrick-Murray ticket in 2006. “He’ll spend probably over $10 million to save one job, his own. But he seems not to care about the 250 people who would lose their jobs, let alone the 500 who would have jobs there with slots at the tracks.” Referring to a comment Patrick made in December, Ferson said, “In determining his position against slots at the tracks, the governor says that he doesn’t want to be a jerk. The employees at Raynham are having a hard time understanding the subtleties of his position.”
Strong words indeed, especially since Scott wouldn't care about the unemployed unless he tripped over one on the way to his beemer. (They couldn't afford his fee.)

By the way, speaking of manufactured information, fractured facts and good old intimidation, UMass Dartmouth Prof. and gambling industry shill Clyde Barrow appeared on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney this week, along with Troy Siebels of Worcester's Hanover Theatre, denying his connections, insisting that no one could be smarter than he is, and revealing that casinos are from the Land of Chocolate.

But since we were on the subject of Middleboro, Marc Pacheco (D - Raynham Dog Track) recently went there to answer charges that his legislation was intentionally leaving Middleboro out of the running for a casino, to suck all the oxygen from the room, and to demonstrate his stellar math skills.
Solomini asked why states with a lot of casinos like Nevada and Florida have higher foreclosure rates than Massachusetts. Pacheco answered “They would have a higher foreclosure rate for they’re much larger”. Clearly he was confusing “rate” with “quantity”. This was a simple, clearly stated question that Pacheco failed to understand and answer.
Naturally, we can't talk of Middleboro and casinos without bringing up those two federally recognized, casino-seeking, wind turbine-hating tribes, the Mashpee and
Aquinnah Wampanoag, whose tribal leadership never falters in it's efforts to tick off anyone standing in the way of their sovereign right to make stuff up as they go along.
A few years ago we and others were urging their recognition, and then joyous when some of the tribe's horrible past was being addressed and remedied.

Now we feel antipathy and contempt for their lies and deceits.

I do not believe that either of these two well-educated and worldly Mashpee tribal leaders believe the fraudulent cow manure they have been shoveling to the press.
I suspect that Chuck Schumer understands. He's fighting to have land-in-trust decisions handled by Congress, and not by a one-size-fits-all federal policy in the hands of an unaccountable political appointee in the Interior Department.
“Given that the issues surrounding the land-trust process are challenging, and affect different parts of the country differently, Congress is the best place to mete out these issues,” Schumer’s office said.
Which sounds pretty good until you hear that the Akaka bill is expected to pass in the House. This bill
would accomplish something peculiar for a liberal republic in the 21st century: It would partly disenfranchise a portion of one state’s residents, create a parallel government for those meeting a legislated criterion of ethnic purity, and would portend the transfer of public assets, land, and political power from those who fail to satisfy the standard of ethnic purity to those who do. For these reasons and many more, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act richly deserves opposition.
What's the big deal, you ask? Well, trust me, the more you know about the failed federal policy that made suburban mega-casinos a reality, the more it makes your head spin. My pal Howard, an equal rights activist out in Minnesota warns that tribal 'gaming' and the federal bureaucracy that perpetuates it
is akin to the Ponzi schemes exposed on Wall Street and across the nation. He points out that old tribal ways, once revered, have been replaced by corporate power, gambling initiatives, and other practices that allow corruption and greed to hurt the local communities. In his address, President Obama pledged to strengthen tribal sovereignty, which Hanson claims will only serve to breed more racism and discrimination, perpetuating the exploitation and social issues plaguing the Indian people. He also points out that untaxed tribal trust lands contribute to the budget deficits plaguing many states, including Minnesota.
And while we know that Bob DeLeo, in his relentless quest to boost revenues at his own district's race tracks, doesn't give a rat's backside if it triggers a series of events that could turn the South Shore into a sovereign Atlantic City, the rest of us should be worried. In fact, Jim Marino, one of the few Indian gaming attorneys who can cast a reflection in a mirror, cautions that even in the best of circumstances
Most agreements made by local and state governments for the casino tribe to pay some money in lieu of taxes, if one is negotiated at all, are, in most cases, worthless and unenforceable because tribes seldom effectively waive their immunity from suit and refuse to divulge any income and expense information upon which such payments would be based. The vast profits accrued from the losses of gamblers enables tribal governments to unduly influence politicians and corrupt the political system and preserve their unregulated and tax free status. It is not long before nearby non-Indian businesses are forced out of business because they cannot compete with tax free, legally immune and unregulated Indian businesses.
Notice how it's always the local communities that get hurt?

At a Southeast Mass. regional selectman's meeting this week, a handful of representatives and planning officials from surrounding towns were alerted by members of the Western Mass. Casino Task Force and Steven Smith of the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District, to the numerous "brutal" impacts local communities can expect - impacts that, nowhere in this nation have ever been independently assessed, included in gambling legislation, or effectively mitigated.

As to why legislators may be so reluctant to perform an impartial analysis that could spare communities these impact, Steve noted that the reason could be that
"Casino gambling is where objectivity goes to die."
But don't just take it from Steve. A recent national survey revealed that more people believe gambling facilities are detriment to local towns.
"They tell me that when it comes to casinos, there are two conversations going on," Peter Woolley, PublicMind's poll director, said Wednesday of the results. "One is among those who, like state governments, want to bring in more gambling. But the other is among people who would be impacted by the introduction of casinos. I was surprised that so many said they have a negative effect."
Another casualty of expanded gambling is the lottery. And, during these dark economic days, things are especially tough in golden sun-drenched Florida, home to 6 casinos, 9 racinos and various other places to blow your money. But heck, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And Florida's going deep.
The state pays millions to probe the thoughts and habits of potential lottery players. Consultants ask what they buy at convenience stores, whether they rent videos, go to theme parks, even how they feel about owning things and belonging to a group.

The results show the lottery relies on the poorest and least educated — "Thrill Seeking Dreamers," it calls them — to spend more than everyone else. Floridians shelled out nearly $4 billion on lottery tickets in 2008-09, with the Thrill Seekers accounting for half of those purchases.

Now, amid double-digit unemployment, the state needs new players — plus more money from the regulars.

"All of our efforts at the Lottery must be directed toward improving the current sales trend," Lottery officials said in a report to lawmakers late last year. They have the recommendations in hand with the opening this week of the 2010 legislative session.

Lottery officials proposed an aggressive plan, including selling tickets in more places, perhaps online, in restaurants and in Walmart, and offering more intense games, possibly one that offers hourly drawings.

Just think, here in Massachusetts, home to the Nation's most successful lottery, which, unlike casinos and slot parlors, sends the bulk of it's earnings back to the same cities and town that would be impacted by them, we too may one day experience the thrill of desperate governmental manipulation at the hands of marketing consultants. Simple hopes for a brighter future for sale on every corner, wallets scraped clean, pockets squeezed of every extra penny on the promise of a dream, for the benefit of the bottom line.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Massachusetts isn't Florida. Yet. And so I'll leave the last word to Joe Fitzgerald, who reminds us all in the Herald that

Yes, the commonwealth needs more revenue, especially as it continues to hemorrhage staggering sums through the greed and corruption that permeate the public sector; hardly a day goes by without another story detailing a betrayal of public trust.

But is this the answer to our fiscal problems? Encourage more people to bet, then let the state stuff its pockets with the money the losers leave behind?

This is good government? Please. This is obscene.

Normally the state at least pretends to care about us: No cigarettes in public venues! No candy in school vending machines! No roughhousing at recess! No trans fats in restaurant meals!

But in this shameless push to capitalize on a merciless addiction, it has abandoned all pretense of caring and readily admitted its only allegiance is to the Almighty Dollar, consequences be damned.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Trifecta

Ok, so now we know Bob DeLeo's gambling plan includes two resort casinos and slots at all four racetracks.

That's one.

And, according to the Rev. Richard McGowan, that Boston College gambling go-to guy, racinos

would have to eventually morph into casinos if they are going to survive.

(Which I could have told you in January of 2009 after attending a presentation of the owner's rhapsodic "vision" of an ever-expanding racetrack hotel resort casino complex.)

So that's two.

Then, and not to be out-done, upon learning of DeLeo's plan, the effervescent Cedric Cromwell, Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman reminded us that
Once gaming is expanded, we intend to move forward with our plans to build a full resort-style casino in Southeastern Massachusetts under the rights afforded to us as a sovereign Indian tribe.

Trifecta!

And don't forget, there is another federally recognized tribe out there and 6 other Massachusetts tribes seeking federal recognition.

Meanwhile, lest we forget the invariable knee-jerk reaction on the part of our neighbors to the North,
Proponents for legalizing slot machine and casino gambling sweetened the pot Thursday offering to dedicate the first $50 million in taxpayer profit from it to avoid state budget cuts to seniors, the disabled, children and low-income families.

(Oh, that is so sweet.)

Simultaneously, down South of the border, seismic shifts in the Mass gambling debate are having a similarly predictable effect.
The opposing side is suggesting the state have a competition for an exclusive casino license in exchange for a $100-million upfront licensing fee. Their legislation even suggests several potential sites, including the Providence waterfront, The Westin Providence hotel and surrounding convention and civic centers; the towns of West Warwick and Johnston and Quonset Point.
And so, my friends, as the rabid hyenas of the gambling world wake this morning with renewed hopes of a long-awaited feast on the untouched entrails of Masschusetts, and as golden tails of jobs and aid and revenue are spun by the enchanted denizens of the PR forest, let's remember the plight of little Iowa, where similar dreams once roamed the landscape.
a state of just 3 million people, it has twenty casinos. Despite promises that gambling profits would focus on education, the state still ranks near the bottom in public funding for schools. Iowa wages are well below the national average; prisons are overcrowded; public funding for the arts is among the lowest in the nation; and the state is currently funding a budget crisis of greater magnitude than ours in Massachusetts.
Impossible in our fair Commonwealth?

When I was a kid, Massachusetts had a daily lottery number drawing. Today there are in excess of 35 scratch tickets, three bi-weekly games, a multi-state drawing, and a game of keno firing off every 4 minutes.

Casinos and racinos are the most shortsighted and predatory forms of economic development, and if the DeLeo's and Reinsteins of the world have their way, their legacy of shallow reasoning and self-serving low-expectations will be the future our children and grandchildren will live in.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Great American Job Scam

In a few minutes, House Speaker Bob DeLeo is going to announce his plan to file a bill promoting a combination of slot parlors and resort casinos. Mr. DeLeo has also refused to agree to a fresh, independent cost-benefit analysis of expanded gambling in the Commonwealth, which would take into account the current state of the economy, and new data coming to light about slot machines, jobs, costs of regulation and crime.

Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney Martha Coakley, and the Mass Chiefs of Police Association have called for this cost-benefit analysis.

But not Bob.

And so, in honor of Bob's enlightened and transparent approach to gambling legislation, I'm publishing these ironic excerpts from The Great American Job Scam, by Greg LeRoy.

The Great American Jobs Scam is actually a collection of scams that have evolved over the past half-century and especially over the past three decades. These scams both rely upon—and reinforce—several factors.They rely on taxpayer confusion about the causes and effects of job creation. These scams thrive when the purported benefits — especially jobs benefits — of tax cuts and other subsidies are played up, so companies must exaggerate the positive impact while the business basics of location behavior are played down. They rely on taxpayer costs being kept vague, understated, or hidden. They need program rules to stay loose and unaccountable so that when a company fails to deliver, it suffers no consequences. They flourish when governments fail to monitor the real outcomes on jobs, wages, and other benefits. And most of all, these scams are built upon a corporate-controlled definition of “competition” that prevents government officials from cooperating in taxpayers’ best interests.

Those who peddle and those who buy into these corrupted definitions salute the corporate bottom line while thumbing their noses at common sense, social science, and good government.

Blindfolded public officials practice job creation guided by wolves posing as Seeing Eye dogs.

It would seem that a ray of hope exists, however.

Fortunately, despite the siege of disinformation, there is a rich bipartisan history of reform that has created proven precedents for dismantling the scam.The most important of these is disclosure.When more information is available about the costs and benefits of the scam, many more people will get involved—and that’s the scammers’ darkest nightmare.

But with his stubborn stance against an independent study, the intention to rush the gambling bill as fast as he can, and gambling interests paying $2 million in 2009 to buy influence in this debate, it would appear that Mr. DeLeo is well on his way to penning the first chapter of someone's future book.

Maybe they can call it, The Great Bay State Slot Scam.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rude & Ruder: The Kathi-Anne Reinstein Story


I don't know if any of you have ever tired to get your elected representatives to actually listen to you, but I have.

Once, as I stood with my NO CASINO sign on the sidewalk, my State rep pulled up in his boat of a car, bellowed something mostly unintelligible out the window, then sped off into the distance waving his cigar as I called and motioned - to no avail - for him to return and have a conversation.

When I went to see him at his office at the State House, his contemptuous slimeball of aide left me in tears.

I have repeatedly, and with little success, requested that a selectman from my town attend meetings of the 17 Town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.

Last year, my ardently pro-slots state senator made a brazen attempt to stop a public meeting of this same task force in Carver.

This task force, which represents a quarter-million people in Southeast Mass., has yet to have been granted an audience with the Governor - though he frequently meets with the 1,500 member Cape Cod Indian tribe which wants to build the world's biggest casino there.

Back in 2007, after writing to my congressmen (members of the same governing body which made suburban tribal mega casinos a reality) about my concerns regarding the Middleboro casino project, I received a brief, and utterly clueless, letter from Ted Kennedy's office thanking me for my interest in immigration reform.

And I'm still waiting to hear from John Kerry.

Sad thing is, I've actually voted for these guys. Many times over the years.

And it's not just the big guys. I've also been gaveled to silence in my own town hall, and witnessed similar gaveling in Middleboro whenever concerns were raised about having the world's biggest casino as a neighbor.

A ballot vote by residents there opposing the casino project was unanimously deemed "irrelevant" by local selectmen and as a result not forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior.

And, thanks to a labyrinth of regulations seemingly modeled after the game of Battleship, the fact that my community is not a host community, even though it would potentially abut a newly created sovereign nation and the world's largest casino, the Federal government denies my town so much as a say-so in the matter.

But what does any of it matter anyway since I'm frequently reminded by the media that my representatives and I are completely powerless - because the only one who does matter in Massachusetts is whoever is currently filling the shoes of the Speaker of the House.

So I shouldn't even bother trying.

But I do try. I've held my sign, done lots of research, collected signatures, given testimony, written letters, blogged, made videos, built web sites, given interviews, attended myriads of meetings, participated in events across the state, arranged educational forums, written fact sheets, sent out mailings, maintained databases, and have put up with pro-casino abuse ranging from having F-bomb's hurled at my children to receiving a threat on my life.

And I'm just one member of the team.

Thankfully, in the second half of last year, we started seeing our efforts start to make a difference. We managed to get the facts out to the Mass. Democratic Party convention - which then adopted a resolution opposing slots.

The Attorney General's top staff, the Governor's top staff, and even the Governor himself let us make our case about the real costs of slots and casinos - after which both the Governor and Attorney General endorsed having the Commonwealth perform a fresh, independent cost-benefit analysis of expanded gambling.

But despite the compelling facts and recent inroads, it still amazes me how little understanding there is about our message among legislators and the general public.

Pigeon-holed as 'moralists', or painted as an axe-wielding, fun-stealing cadre of Carrie Nations whose mission is to deprive individuals of their private liberties and the State of much needed jobs and revenue - a characterization aided and abetted by the media and assorted anonymous comment section hoopla - our message is lost.

And so, in an attempt to more clearly define that message, to frame it in easy-to-understand, graphical, economic terms, we managed, last Thursday, to pack a room at the Statehouse with reps and their aides to present "A Mathbook for Beacon Hill".

More than a dozen people volunteered their time, expertise and resources to the project for over two months. Many of us took the day off from work and drove in from across the state to be available to answer questions at the presentation - which countered the inflated figures for jobs and revenue we keep hearing about, along with the invariably non-existent costs that accompany them.

But what do the efforts of a bunch of concerned taxpaying volunteers matter when a solitary, paid legislator and big-time slot cheerleader like State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D - Suffolk Downs) can mosey down from her office, sit through the meeting like a fidgety 5th grader who'd sold her last Ritalin for a snickers bar, then proceed to hijack the Q & A as her own personal pro-slots soapbox?

After purposely having framed our presentation to specifically address economic impacts - partly in response to accusations by Kathi and others like her who've repeatedly tried to characterize the opposition's message as one of moral imperative over financial reality - Kathi proceeded to use our meeting to bend the message back to addiction and social costs.

And before long, Kathi-Anne the pro-slots cheerleader becomes Kathi the slot-wielding human bullhorn, dripping with sarcasm, reeking of indignation, dismissive, bombastic and rude.

Attempts to reign her in, requests that she phrase her comments in the form of an actual question were utterly ignored. This was "a public meeting!" after all, she insisted! She had the right to be heard.

That's right, because just like those of us who worked hard to set up this meeting sans a staff, who don't get to vote on expanded gambling legislation, who've been repeatedly ignored by many of our own elected leaders in favor of track owners, lobbyists and others, who are outspent by gambling interests $2 million to one and are invariably regulated to the last quote on the second page of virtually every news article on the subject, Kathi-Anne appears to actually be afraid that someone won't hear her.

Actually.

Which, from what I've seen of Kathi-Anne Reinstein, is downright impossible.

After pontificating for a good fifteen minutes (and at least a quarter of our allotted time) on just about everything from license plates to cigarettes to adopting thoroughbred horses, Kathi-Anne finally asks that all too familiar and predictable question:
"If not gambling, what other ideas do yoooooooooou have for coming up with new jobs and revenue."
Okay, look. I've heard this same question from everyone from small town selectmen to Sen. Marc Pacheco, to that slimeball in Dave Flynn's office.

And really, I don't hold it against Kathi that between her horse-based life experiences and limited intellectual abilities, she can't wrap her head around better, creative solutions that won't end up helping the gambling industry more than citizens of Massachusetts.

Or that she, who at an October 2009 hearing referred to her constituents as "not exactly rocket scientists" with an existing array of gambling problems, is in favor of creating future generations of addicts in her district in order to save them all a bus ride to Connecticut.

Or that the woman who once championed making the fluffernutter the official sandwich of Massachusetts isn't perhaps incapable of comprehending the serious ramifications that legalizing slots could have for other communities and taxpayers outside the confines of her district.

Heck, after three years of observing a certain percentage of the people who make up the Massachusetts legislature, including Kathi-Anne, you won't catch me holding my breath waiting for them to come up with a better solution than expanded gambling.

No, the thing that really gets me is that State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein had the unmitigated, sanctimonious gaul to face a group of unpaid citizen volunteers, including health educators and web designers and demand that they - they - provide her with alternative revenue sources.

Because heck, isn't that her job. Isn't that's what she's paid to do. Paid by us?

We all have jobs to do. So, are we free to call Kathi up and ask her how to do them?

Should medical doctors stop to confer with Kathi-Anne when stumped for a cure for their patient?

Perhaps demolitions experts should keep Kathi on speed dial in case they have to ask "should I cut the blue or the red wire."

Of course not. But this isn't the real world, it's the Commonwealth of Kathi-Anne - where she gets paid to try to make you look bad for not being able to do her job.

Which begs the question, aside from ignoring constituents, failing to perform due diligence, pretending not to fawn over special interests, supporting bad ideas, promoting unhealthy sandwiches to school children, talking too much, listening too little, collecting pensions for life and expecting other people to do their job, what is it, exactly, that today's legislators do?

I can tell you this - most of them haven't even taken the time to look at this website.

Why do you suppose that is? Perhaps we should add "being busy already knowing everything there is to know about slots" to that impressive legislative job description?

Because the more people know about this industry, the more they're likely to oppose it. Or, at least, more likely to demand a deeper look.

Which is why people like me wait patiently for the Q & A session at the end of another long meeting, if they allow one at all, and then carefully phrase our comments in the form of a question. We wait for a year to give 5 minutes testimony to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and two and a half years to testify for 3 minutes at the State House. We wait our turn, for 13 hours, folded up like a human lawn chair in an over-crowded auditorium, to speak for less than a minute.

We work, unpaid, and play - if you can call it that- by the rules.

And that's the real problem, isn't it. It's why lobbyists spread around big money behind the scenes, and why legislators make quiet deals with the devil behind closed doors. Why unions pay their members to pack halls in distant towns, and why policy analysis turned industry shills label us, without grasping a shred of irony, the 'chattering class'.

Kathi wasn't afraid that her peers at the State House wouldn't hear her - she was terrified that, for once, they might actually hear us.

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UPDATE:  January 2, 2014  -  Kathi-Anne Reinstein resigned from the Massachusetts legislature to take a new job as Lobbyist Government Affairs Manager for Boston Beer Company  (which brews Sam Adams beers).

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