Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Let Them Eat Slots

Rosenberg said United to Stop Slots should commission its own independent study on costs. “Go do it,” he said. “But they have no intention of doing it.”
-- Senator Stan Rosenberg,
who recently used $100,000 in taxpayer funds to hire a
gambling company to perform a gambling benefits analysis report
Boston Herald, June 21, 2010
Hey, remember learning about the French Revolution and how it started partly as a result of the aristocracy being so out-of-touch with the common man?

Well, that's what comes to mind when I hear about gobs of taxpayer money going to fund a benefits-only study, or find out Suffolk Downs paid $100,000 for a pro-slots TV spot, or see a giant electronic billboard along Rte. 93 in Boston flashing "Casinos Now!  Jobs Now!".

It's also what comes to mind when I think about the only public hearing on this gambling bill, announced only 2 business days after the bill came out, so that the public was required to juggle their schedules, travel to the Senate's place of business, watch the Ways and Means Committee put casino developers, racetrack owners and paid lobbyists ahead of members of the public, people who'd showed up early, signed in first, and sat politely through hours of individual testimony that lasted way longer than the allotted 3 minutes, only to be gaveled and chastised when they themselves barely crossed over the three minute mark.  Or worse - having to leave before they even got the chance to speak.

And it's certainly what comes to mind when I recall all the behind-closed-doors meetings, and this whole rush job of a process including the strange emergence of Stan-the-man Rosenberg, a guy with a somewhat unique sense of what constitutes an "independent" and "balanced" study,  and who somehow became the Senate's resident expert on casinos by, you guessed it, going to casinos.

At the Senate's hearing on this bill yesterday, Stan justified creating three casinos in Massachusetts because Mass gamblers are already bringing their problems home, and we don't have enough money to treat them.

Jeez, Stan - it's Casinos 101 - proximity creates more addiction. In Iowa, 1.7% of the population were problem gamblers. Three and a half years later, that figure had more than tripled to 5.4%.  In Louisiana it's now 7%.  Before Hollywood Slots came to Maine, calls to the National gamblers hotline were zero - last year they totaled 1,263 - and remember these are just the people that seek help.  Those are NEW problems gamblers, and their problems don't stop at the mirror - they effect their family and friends and co-workers. 

Stan prides himself on going all over creation to study casinos - he looks - but he only sees what he wants.  He insists the process has been open and transparent.  But, unless you've been sitting in on those numerous legislative closed door sessions - this process has been murky and secretive, and inexplicably comes with a lot of back patting and self congratulation. 

And that's the power of Kool-Aid, baby!

I'm also not sure where a comment like Stan's, seemingly disparaging USS-Mass for not doing it's own study comes from, but it doesn't make me feel any more comfortable about his ability to understand both sides of this issue . 

USS-Mass is an all volunteer organization comprised of working-class citizens.  Some of us have been in the trenches for over three years.  We work endless hours, hunt down the facts, do the math and provide all our time, energy, and resources for free - just to be gaveled after slogging through a seven hour hearing or for the last quote on the second page of a news article. And, unlike Stan we don't have access to an endless tap root of funds to create reports to tell us what we want to hear.

Funny thing is, Stan used to be solidly against casinos, that is, until Senate President Therese Murray personally hand selected him to be her point man on the issue.  Wink wink.  Nudge nudge.

Speaking of whom, whatever happened to that "clean slate"  T. Murray promised? Whatever happened to "doing it right"?   Right for who? The gambling industry?

But then, maybe it's all too much to ask of our leadership.  Maybe that fact that the casino lobby sprinkled $20 M in influence on their cereal last year, or the knowledge that they can write a check on the taxpayer dime to an out-of-state company for a worthless study and still get away with it, makes them think they're... well... different.

Or maybe it's our Governor, who hobnobs with gambling industry big-wigs, blurring perhaps the truth that while gambling expansion has never helped any state out of a financial deficit, it will irreparably hurt the hundreds of thousands of Mass. citizens he represents.  But, then, how can a mom from Palmer or a Fall River small business owner compete with a private conversation between millionaires on the the 14th green?  Let's be fair.

Speaking of being fair, I've had a couple of people criticize me recently for insisting that Martha Coakley didn't go far enough the other day, after this news making event:
In an unusual break with ally Senate President Therese Murray, Attorney General Martha Coakley on Monday told senators that leadership’s  casino bill would “significantly limit law enforcement’s ability to protect the public” and urged them to strengthen the measure with House-backed language she had proposed last year. The bill headed to the floor Wednesday is too narrow, Coakley said, because language restricting prosecution to activities directly affecting gaming creates a loophole “that would allow many significant criminal players … to avoid prosecution and continue to threaten public safety.” In a letter delivered to senators Monday and obtained by the News Service, Coakley used the example of a prostitution ring in a town neighboring a casino. She said the ring’s leader could escape prosecution because the activity could be considered not directly affecting gaming. “The Senate gaming proposal limits the tools that law enforcement needs to get these bad actors off the streets so that legitimate business opportunities can flourish,” Coakley wrote. She asked senators to adopt the “enterprise crime amendment” filed by Sen. Steven Baddour.
--State House News
The fact is, it took a former AG to embarrass our current AG into finally, and even then only into marginally, doing her job. And yet, I was told me that I should be actually be happy about this - that this was a "big deal for Martha?"  Their exact words.

So ok.  When exactly did the bar slip so low in this State that we should all be referring to a sitting AG as if she's a 4 year old who finally made boom-boom in the potty after 2 years of constant pleading and encouragement.

Martha Coakley should be against casino-related crime, dammit.  Because it creates casino-related crime-victims, that's why. We elected her to prevent crime victims,  not to be another high-paid bureaucrat with a law degree.

But no.  Instead, our AG "asked senators to adopt the 'enterprise crime amendment' filed by Sen. Steven Baddour" - which is hack speak for "I'm afraid that this is a bare-minimum requirement for me to save face over my otherwise ill-handling of this issue due to my close personal relationship with Therese Murray.  I wish I didn't have to inconvenience you with this, but as you can see, I'm getting a lot of heat, and frankly the whole things sort of reminds me of being forced to go shake hands with voters over at Fenway when I'd much rather be in my La-Z-Boy watching a movie on Lifetime."

Not to be out done, Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanag Tribe has also been inconvenienced. When he discovered that the Senate's bill left out a provision for a Tribal casino, he railed,
"The poor Indian tribe is getting it stuck to us again."
Yeah that blows.  Now, instead of being sovereign casino bazillionaires, Cromwell's 1,500 member middle-class Cape Cod tribe will have to subsist on the paltry multi-million dollar scraps of tax-free federal aid the government throws their way every year.

But Cromwell won't have long to suffer.  If slots are legalized in MA, the tribe will go to congress (by the way, this would happen even if they won a commercial casino license) and say, "we are the tribe that met the Pilgrims and we can't even get a casino! This is an outrage. We are a sovereign nation!  We have our rights.  If slots are legal in a state then tribes can have them on their land.  Give us land so we can compete with fair economic advantage!  Did we mention we're the tribe the met the Pilgrims?!"

At some point there will be a Congress that will give them land, and the state will undoubtedly sign a compact, having sold it's backbone for 3 destination resort casinos.

Alternatively, Congress will not give them the land.  And so, this notoriously litigious Tribe will once again go to court - where they will win - because there is already ample precedent for victory for federally recognized tribes in states with casinos.  Only Texas has kept tribes from establishing casinos -  because it simply has not legalized slots and it refuses to be forced to sign a compact with it's federally recognized tribe.  Slot machines have actually been removed from tribal lands in Texas.

Having gone down this road, the Tribe won't have to follow typical federal regulations involving land in trust or existing environmental guidelines, and their casino could potentially go anywhere - no doubt somewhere with excellent highway access and existing infrastructure - and preferably in Northhampton, next door to Stan Rosenberg so he can stare in rapture at it  while sucking on his Kool-Aid hookah pipe.

The Aquinnah, not to be outdone will follow, using the Mashpee as a precedent. This process could go quickly, or it could take 20 years, but it will happen unless major changes in Federal Indian Law are made.  The one sure thing you can count on is that Mass. Taxpayers will fund this and future litigation for decades to the tune of millions. 

And all because Bob DeLeo's dad was a maitre d' a Suffolk Downs restaurant.  A proud dad - but one who, unlike his son, doesn't underestimate the dangers of gambling or overestimate it's rewards.
Even though Al DeLeo loved the track, he recognized its dangers, to the point that he forbade his son from gambling. Robert DeLeo remembers one occasion when he bet on a horse, won, and bragged to his father.

“I was as proud as a peacock,’’ he said in a recent interview. “I said, ‘Hey, Dad, I won a race.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to lose too many. I don’t want to hear it. Don’t even go there, pal.’"
As D day spins closer we'll no doubt have to hear more from the loquacious Senator Pacheco (D - Raynham Dogtrack), who'll try to convince us that the Track is the economic engine of the South Shore - which never fails to remind me how, even back in it's heyday, twenty years ago, I couldn't convince my co-workers to go there after work - and it was literally right around the corner.   At the hearing it became obvious Sen. Pacheco was oblivious to the fact that UMass. Prof. Clyde Barrow had been exposed as an industry insider, putting his work on a pedestal again and again as better informed members of the audience rolled their eyes and twittered their amazement .  For three years casino and slot opponents have barraged Sen. Pacheco with calls and letters, only to be swatted away like flies at a picnic.

And from what I understand, Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstien, former horse track employee, and my personal favorite source of unintentional comedy, has been slated to be on the conference committee which will hash the nitty gritty of any proposed legislation. Which is only natural, since her bold championship of the Fluffernutter as the State's official sandwich, and recent comparison of gambling addiction to a Yankee Candles compulsion make her the obvious choice for a voice on legislation which will eventually hurt families, cost some people their lives and pave the way for new sovereign nations.

Did legislators really think 60 Minutes showed up at the public hearing to record their brilliance for posterity?

Therese Murray, the puppet master who's orchestrated this play for the past three years, has refused to meet with casino opposition at all.  Content to stroll the marble floors of the State House with her inner circle, she remains blissfully oblivious and hauntingly silent to their concerns. Ironically, I was living in Plymouth in 1992 when she first ran for Senate.  Figuring a woman would better represent women and families in the legislature and I gave her my vote.  How was I to predict that nearly 2 decades later, Murray would become a great champion of an industry that spawns bankruptcy, divorce, foreclosure, domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect wherever it goes.  Ka-Ching!

And then there's Deval.  Yesterday, the Sun King demanded "a good, fair comprehensive and thoughtful gaming bill and I want it by the end of the sesssion" - no doubt so that he can jet off on vacation - probably to whack golf balls off the roof of the Dubai Hilton, or soak up some of the French Riviera. Or maybe off once again to his book publishers - like he did in 2008, leaving the rest of us to endure a 15 hour hearing on the very issue that he ignited.

To be sure, Deval will get his gambling bill in time, but the train for fair, comprehensive and thoughtful has already left the station.

Having been a witness and part of this circus for the past 3 years, I already know that it's outcome is sure to be stranger than fiction, and have little to do with good policy. Deval will sign off on gambling legislation if, for no other reason, than he is doggedly determined, finally, to win this one - oddly oblivious to the fact that the gambling industry earns it's keep by making losers feel like winners.

At the moment, the legislature is writing yet another chapter in history that, when read at some later date, will leave people shaking their heads in disbelief with every turn of the page.  Why didn't they listen?  What was the rush?  Why didn't they just commission an independent review... What were they afraid of...  How did they get away with it?  Why did so many just go along...  Couldn't they see how bad the process was?

The truest tragedies of history don't get their start on the pages of a book, they happen in voting booths and under golden domes, at the hands of people who were convinced they were doing the right thing.

The people need jobs?  Well then,  "Let them eat slots!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy

"Saturation is one of the biggest red herrings in the Massachusetts casino debate," he said. Barrow contends that adding additional gambling facilities actually increases the potential market by making it accessible to more people. There are 40 casinos in Colorado, 9 in Illinois, 30 in Mississippi, 17 in Minnesota, 26 in Wisconsin, and 17 in Iowa, 18 in Louisiana, Barrow pointed out. "And yet some people in Massachusetts agonize over the prospect of three casinos? Give me a break!"
--Prof. Clyde Barrow, UMass Dartmouth
Cape Cod Times, June 21, 2010

Alrighty then, with full thanks to Doug Bailey, formerly of Casino Free Mass., let's take a look at how those casino-heavy states are doing financially

According to this week's Time Magazine,
  • Colorado 21.2 % budget shortfall as a percentage of this year's budget (12th highest in the country)
  • Illinois (36.1 % - third biggest budget deficit in the country as percentage of total budget)
  • Mississippi (14.6 %)
  • Minnesota (26.4 %)
  • Wisconsin (25.3 %t)
  • Iowa (18.6 %)
For perspective, Massachusetts' deficit as a percentage of total budget is just 8.5 % - the fifth smallest deficit in the country.  Tied for 4th smallest is Virginia, another no casino state.

The two largest deficits in the country are in Nevada (56.6 %), and New Jersey (37.4 %), followed closely by Connecticut at 29.2 %.

Massachusetts continue to sees strong job growth every month. A full 17% of the nation's new private sector jobs were created here in the Commonwealth. Last month, 15,800 jobs were created statewide.  Compare that to the 12,000 projected permanent jobs for three resort casinos that will come at the expense of local business and individuals and require a new bureaucracy to regulate.

So, instead of agonizing over how many casinos we should have in this state, chasing gambling revenue across the border, or listening to Prof. Clyde Barrow at all, perhaps Massachusetts would be better served looking at what she's already got going for her.

Let's face it, the grass always looks greener in someone else's backyard, but for all her problems, as far as the Bay State concerned, there really is,  " place like home".

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sins of the Fathers

In honor of Father's Day, I am including a link to one of my most popular posts, Ring of Fire, a story about real life Father and son that has continually inspired me in my three-year fight against expansion of gambling in Massachusetts.

I'm also cross posting  Caring About All the Small People..  a new post from my Blue Mass Group diary which explores the cavernous difference between responsibility and excuses.

Here's wishing a great big Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there - and especially to those dads who've worked so hard to keep the children of the Commonwealth safe from the after-effects of predatory gambling - even as our own legislature works so hard to justify the quality them as the cost of doing business.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Silence May Be Golden, But Duct Tape is Silver...

There it was, illuminating the Rte. 93 night sky above a night-work traffic jam I found myself in, coming home from a very long day at the June 8th quote un-quote public hearing on expanded gambling.

A giant electronic Vegas-quality billboard flashing in the night sky.

Casinos Now!!
Jobs Now!!

The same slogan that emblazoned the orange t-shirts of a hundred or so hired union employees who clapped and booed un-chastized at every word of paid AFL-CIO spokesman Bobby Haynes in Gardner Auditorium.

Bobby Hanes spoke hours before most anti-casino activists (all of whom are unpaid volunteers from across the State) were allowed to testify before the committee, and was allowed to speak as long as he liked, without repercussion.  

In fact, by the time I went on, I don't recall a single person on either side who'd actually stuck to the 3 minute time limit.

There were many people that day thanking the Senate for it's transparency and diligence during the legislative process.

Senator Spilka answered concerns that there would only be one public hearing, by stating that there have been public hearings before.  Which I know, of course, because I've testified at both of them, and attended the one I wasn't allowed to testify at because, being a member of the public who resided between a town with dog track and another facing the threat of the world's biggest tribal casino, I was of no importance.

Senator Pacheco mentioned, several times, the fine work of Prof. Clyde Barrow, who helped the Governor develop his three casino vision between 2007 and 2008.

Senator Hart had, earlier that day, taken about 15 minutes to pontificate to the members of the audience, in what appeared to be a re-election campaign ad.  One of the first things he said, what stood out  most to me, and what was later echoed by Senator Richard Ross (who replaced Scott Brown) was
We are all agreed.  This is about jobs and the economy.

The thing is, the Commonwealth is not all in agreement about that.  That is why some of us were there.  That was why I created the USS-Mass web site - a web site that clearly demonstrates that Barrow is a paid industry lobbyist and shill, that not everyone in the Commonwealth believes the message is about jobs, and that there is WAY more than 3 minutes worth of issues to talk about.

Perhaps more than anything, it demonstrates to me that many of the people in the grassroots have a better handle on this issue than the Mass. Senate.

The following is my testimony before the committee. I wish I had the video of my testimony, but I can't locate it.

And so, I've inserted comments (in yellow text) about activity that was occurring as I spoke.
A recent poll conducted by Western New England College found that 56% of Mass. residents support the idea of casinos in Massachusetts.

Three years ago, I might have been one of that 56%, but then the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe announced it's intention to build the world's largest casino down the street from me in Middleboro.

My main concerns at that time were about additional traffic, drunk drivers and my property value.

Since then, I've done a lot of research on casinos, racinos, and federal Indian law. I've met and corresponded with people facing gambling expansion or living in gambling communities all over this country. And last year I put together a web site for, and learned even more.

I learned about the problem of Youth Gambling. 4% to 8% of adolescents (compared to 1% to 3% for adults) have very serious gambling problems, while another 10 to 15% are at risk.

Last year I met a young man who grew up in Florida before and after the construction of the Seminole resort casino.

According to him “Our high school students flocked there by the hundreds. In fact, I had friends skipping school to go gamble. No, they weren't of age; they were procuring false identification to feed their growing habit.”

Fifty percent of spouses and 10 percent of children experience physical abuse from pathological gamblers.

And casinos drastically increase crime – including numerous types of violent crime.  No matter how much you regulate it.

I learned that's it's expensive to regulate gambling. The New Jersey Casino Commission, for example, has five divisions each with a staff, and the New Jersey State Police maintains a separate Special Investigation Section with four special crime fighting units.

The slot machine, unlike alcohol or tobacco is a product that cannot be used in the home. It requires that the player go to the slot machine. In the case of the parent, day care provider or other caregiver, this aspect of gambling addiction can have tragic consequences.

We've all heard the stories about children being abandoned in vehicles in casino parking lots – well I've read countless news stories about children – being locked in trunks, abandoned in hotel corridors, in shopping malls, and in cars on side streets around casinos and slot parlors. In searing heat and freezing cold, many of these children, if found at all, require emergency care, often having to be “revived” at the scene. And these are only the cases that make the news. And they're not counting the young children and infants left home alone.

In Oct. of last year I was here at the State House, testifying on a panel which also included Natasha Schull of MIT, Dr. Hans Brieter of Mass General and Harvard Medical School and the Rev. Bob Massie, who has a doctorate in Business from Harvard, all of whom have testified again here today.

They explained that even Las Vegas casino operators had originally opposed the modern electronic slot machine, developed in the 80's, comparing it to “loaded dice” - until they found out how much money they could make with electronic loaded dice.

Now casinos make most of their money from slot machines - which create a different type of gambling addiction, that, in the human brain, looks the same as addiction to crack cocaine.

Now, the gambling industry's business model makes 90% of it's earnings from 10% of it's players – the same ones who are problem or pathological gamblers.

And so I ask you, do you suppose that 56% of Mass. Residents would still approve of casinos if they knew these things?

The USS-Mass web site contains over 40 pages of information, 80 videos, and hundreds of reports, studies, articles and other resources. Since the bill passed the House and moved to the Senate, the total amount of time spent on the USS-Mass web site from the State House totals 83 minutes - or an average of 2 minutes per Senator. (Gavel...) Which means that my 11 year old (Gavel...) spent more time on his 5th grade book report than the average senator has spent studying the statewide opposition message in preparation of this bill. (Gavel...)

And so, I want you to ask yourselves this question - do you really believe that the citizens of Massachusetts, (Gavel...) the same people who voted to abolish dog racing, who voted against selling liquor in grocery stores, and who have demanded laws to protect their children from bullying, (Gavel Gavel...)  would - if they really knew all the facts (Gavel Gavel...) - approve of legislation that will harm children, increase crime, including violent crime, create a new bureaucracy, promote a product that cheats consumers and generates new addicts, over the advice of doctors from Harvard and MIT, and after having performed less research than your average 5th grader.
(Gavel Gavel Gavel Gavel...)

Generations will suffer and some will lose their lives to this legislation. Prove to the citizens of Commonwealth that you've done your homework. Call for an independent cost/benefit analysis of expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

Thank you.

At the conclusion of my testimony, Senator Hart, with his angry eyes on, verbally chastised me for going over my time. I don't have the video yet, but I'd be pretty surprised if I'd gone over 4 minutes.

For the record, I finally spoke at roughly 6:30 p.m. - after having been at the State House for over 7 1/2 hours, politely listening to the testimony of legislators, paid lobbyists, casino developers and racetrack owners.

None of whom were ahead of me in the sign-up line.

So much for transparency.  So much for diligence.  So much for the public.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All's Well That's Cromwell

The following are selections from the written testimony of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell to the House Ways and Means "public" hearing on the current gambling bill. I have included a blow-by-blow translation for further edification.
In 2009, I ran for election as Chairman of my Tribe as part of a reform slate to rid our tribe of corruption...
...but only after an ironclad agreement with the town of Middleboro for a billion dollar casino had already been signed by the aforementioned bearer of "corruption"
and bring transparency and sound business practices to our tribal government.
...For instance, rather than honoring an existing agreement promising a billion dollar casino to the town of Middleboro, I decided to make it more like a million dollar slot parlor with some food service.
When the new leadership took office, we examined all of the decisions that the previous administration made, including the proposal to locate a casino in Middleboro.
Because let's face it... we're never getting land in trust in Middleboro.
We conducted our appropriate due diligence and ultimately concluded that Fall River would be a better location for the Casino.
I mean, why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free.
Today, the Tribe has reached an agreement with the City of Fall River to develop an integrated resort casino on the outskirts of Fall River. If the legislature approves expanded gaming, we intend to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the development which includes a casino, three hotels, convention facilities, a spa, high-end shopping and an indoor waterpark.
... and the Cedric Cromwell Heritage Museum...the Cedric Cromwell Lunar Observatory... the Cedric Cromwell Petting Zoo... the Cedric Cromwell International Monorail...
It will be a destination for the whole family.
Because children and casinos are such a good fit.
We have the strong support of the Mayor of Fall River and broad support in the community, as evidenced by a recent poll that concluded that nearly 2/3rds of Fall River residents support the development.
So hey, let's get this thing moving before an informed opposition has time to develop, OK?

The proposed site in Fall River is well-suited to development in that it is easily accessible from major routes, and has good infrastructure surrounding it. Most importantly however, Fall River is an area that is much in need of the economic stimulus that a resort casino can provide.
AKA "Desperate."
The Tribe also has the financial backing of Arkana Limited, a wholly-owned affiliate of Malaysian investment group Kien Huat. Kien Huat affiliates financed the startups of Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut in 1992 and the Seneca Niagara Casino in New York in 2002. They are a multi-billion dollar organization with vast experience developing and operating resort casinos.
Once again, let's hurry up and pass this gaming bill before this tidbit gets out.
The revenues generated by our proposed destination resort casino will provide for housing, education and health care for our people as well as the diversification of our economic development strategy so that we may better provide for our people.
Yeah, because the millions the Tribe receives each year in tax-free federal aid doesn't cover the cost of my turquoise neckties.
For the city of Fall River, the casino will mean the creation of thousands of construction jobs immediately, and thousands of permanent jobs once the resort is up and operating.
But just so you know, unions are an insult to our sovereignty.
The jobs will be blue collar and white collar jobs in diverse industries including hospitality, gaming, food and beverage etc.
But seriously, mostly blue-collar low-paying part-time jobs.
They are the kinds of jobs that are so desperately needed by the residents of Fall River who are struggling to find work.
Because nothing says "casino" like "desperate".
While on the subject of jobs, I know that much has been said about the likelihood that destination resort casinos could displace workers at the state’s current racetracks, and at the Raynham/Taunton track in particular. With that possibility in mind, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is prepared to offer employment to any worker at the Raynham/Taunton facility who loses their job because of changes in the state’s gaming laws.
Well that solves that problem. Next!
In addition to employment opportunities, the development will also bring much needed revenue to the City of Fall River, to fund education, infrastructure improvements and crime prevention—all critical issues facing the City.
Ironically, the development will also increase class sizes, numerous types of crime and impact existing infrastructure.
Finally, for the Commonwealth, our proposal will mean economic development for a part of the state that is in desperate need.
If you've been counting, that's three times I've said or implied "desperation".

Much has been written and said about the subject of Indian land in trust.
And much of it is total BS written with the intent of expanding the reach of the gambling industry.

Let me briefly explain. Currently, the Mashpee Wampanoag is the only federally recognized tribe in Massachusetts that does not have an initial reservation.
But only because we don't want a reservation unless we can have a casino too.  Frankly, it's a deal breaker.
The Aquinnah Tribe, the other federally recognized tribe, has been granted an initial reservation on Martha’s Vineyard, though they have waived the right to game on that reservation.
Because, unlike us, they were recognized before the Indian casino craze and foolishly chose a reservation unsuited to a casino. LOOOZA!

Presently, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has an application before the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take land into trust as an initial reservation.
That is currently lying at the bottom of a dusty trash bin somewhere within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Once the land is placed into trust, our Tribe will have certain gaming rights as provided by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA.
But only the same gaming rights that are legal in Massachusetts.

According to IGRA,
By the way, did you know that the acronym IGRA is most commonly assigned to the International Gay Rodeo Association?

federally recognized tribes "have the exclusive right to regulate gaming activity on Indian lands."
Of course, only if that same gaming activity is legal in the state, and if the land has been federally approved or set aside by Congress specifically for gambling purposes, and there is a compact between the State and the Tribe, which, by precedent, the State cannot be forced to enter into.  But you needn't worry your little head over that.

As I am sure you also know, in February 2009, the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar caused uncertainty as to the federal government’s ability to take land into trust for certain tribes.
After 20 years of wanton land annexation, abuse of sovereignty and expansion of gambling brought about an unfortunate national backlash.

Since then, we, along with hundreds of other tribes from across the country, have been working with the Obama Administration and Congress to end this uncertainty.
Because the Obama Administration and Congress are convinced it will boost their approval ratings to help recognized Indian tribes build casinos on the East coast.

We are very encouraged by legislation introduced in both the US Senate and House to resolve this situation and potential opportunities to fix this administratively.
We like to think of ourselves as a cup-half-full people.

The bottom line is this—once we secure a federal land base, we will inevitably have sovereign rights to game on Indian land.
Actually, the bottom line is that I'm going to say whatever I have to say to confuse you into thinking we can and will have our casino no matter what reality actually is. And let's face it senators, you're pretty easy to confuse. Someone throws the word "casino" out there and it's like cat nip to you people. I could say anything right now and you'd just be sitting there with a dazed look on your face trying to bat an invisible fly. And did you notice how I also managed to fit the word "inevitability" in there. Our marketing studies show that this key word often works even better than "desperate" in influencing casinos legislation.

But we would strongly prefer to work with the state now to adopt a comprehensive approach to statewide gaming that includes the Tribe,
Because we want you to think we're buds

and allows us to negotiate a contract with the State now,
Not that you'll actually be able to enforce it later.
and proceed to put shovels in the ground immediately.
Because remember... you're "desperate!"

We are very encouraged that both versions of the gaming bill currently pending include specific recognition of the special rights we have because we are a federally recognized tribe,
And just because we're special.

and we were very pleased that the Senate bill included provisions related to our proposal in Fall River.
Because if you'll let us build a casino instead of a Bio-Park that's been 10 years in the making, then there is nothing we cannot get you to do.

I am also pleased to have the support of Senator Menard who has been a strong leader not only on this issue, but on all the issues affecting the Tribe and its people.
Not to mention a patron saint of the gambling industry.

Finally, I want to express how excited we are to be working with Mayor Will Flanagan.
Because he's even easier to confuse than you are!

Mayor Flanagan is committed to charting a course for economic growth in Fall River that will bring real relief sooner rather than later.
Which means we can have own sovereign casino nation before you can mispronounce "Wampanoag".  Yay!

He’s in a rush to get his people back to work, and so are we.
We're all desperate!

With the support of our financial backers, we stand ready to put shovels in the ground as soon possible
And then it will only be a matter of time before we take over the world!!!!!


We look forward to working with the Commonwealth as it considers expanded gaming and as we move forward with our project.
Notice how we just made you think that our project is actually moving? You people are  WAY too easy!

It will be a great project for the Tribe, a great project for Fall River, and a great project for the Commonwealth.
Pay no attention to that casino behind the curtain.

On behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, I thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony, and look forward to a close working relationship moving forward.
Until you cross us - just once - and then we'll see you in court, baby!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sound... of Silence

April 13, 2010

Dear Representative Flynn,

I realize my opinion is meaningless to you, since I am not a member of the gambling industry, only a constituent, but I nevertheless urge you to oppose any slot legislation before the house.  The House does not even remotely understand the ramifications of this legislation on creating sovereign nations - most especially here in our region of the State.

Mary Tufts
Bridgewater, MA

April 27, 2010

Dear Ms. Tufts,

Thank you for your letter regarding your opposition to the casino/slots legislation which we are currently debating on the House floor. I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me.

As you know, I have been at the forefront of the legislation and debate over the inclusion of slot machines at the state’s racetracks for over 10 years. I realize that we disagree on this issue.

My purpose in fighting for this legislation has always been about the citizens of the 8th Plymouth district. The hundreds of employees laid off at the Raynham track and the many more unemployed in other fields are in desperate need of jobs, support, and hope. While this legislation is far from perfect, it will mean jobs and revenue to the Commonwealth, benefitting every citizen.

I hope you can understand the reasons for my support of the gaming legislation.


Rep. Dave Flynn
Dean of the House

April 28, 2010

Dear Representative Flynn,

Thank you for responding. However, I find your claims about job creation to be misplaced. Casino and slot parlor jobs are far from the good paying jobs we need in this state. Your tunnel vision regarding the Raynham dog track has blinded you to other job creation possibilities - including jobs which would not saddle the people of Massachusetts, including the citizens of the 8th Plymouth district, with more addiction, bankruptcy, foreclosure, child abuse and neglect, and which wouldn't siphon discretionary dollars away from our local small businesses.

Furthermore, if you truly had the best interests of the citizens of your district at heart, I sincerely doubt you would have voted against an amendment that would have prevented gambling interests from contacting gamblers who had voluntarily placed themselves on a self-exclusion list.

Seriously, I would like to hear what possessed you to vote for such an insidious and predatory practice. Have you really so little understanding of what addiction does to individuals and families, or do your sympathies merely begin and end at the dog track?

Your constituent and neighbor,
Mary Tufts

Today is June 2, 2010.

I have still yet to receive a response from Rep. Flynn explaining to me his reasons for voting against the self-exclusion ammendment.

Local reps Calter, Canavan, Canessa, Fagan, Haddad, Gifford, McCarthy, Koczera, Brady, Bradley, Webster, Quinn, and Nyman also voted against this ammendment - which passed by only four votes.

If one of those names belongs to your rep, please contact them and ask what reasoning they used to come to the conclusion that marketing to those on problem gambling self-exclusion lists was a good thing. And please, let me know what they say.

Because the silence is killing me.