See, I watch a lot of news over the course of a day - mostly Channel 7 (WHDH) at morning and midday, and Channel 5 (WCVB) in the evening and late night. Usually, the news is just background noise while I work, but naturally, when there's some sort of gambling story it gets my attention.
So imagine the battle for my attention as I watched, over the course of one 24 hour news cycle, the same story running, nearly word for word, on both of my favorite TV News stations. Over and over and over again. Only the co-anchors seemed to change.
The story? Well, apparently, the day before the Senate sat down to debate the latest gambling bill, a poll was released!
The poll was conducted by... wait for it... UMass Dartmouth Center for Public Policy (which needn't bother sending my 11th grader a college brochure) which indicated... you'll never guess... that a majority of Mass. residents want a casino! Yay!!
Wow, what an incredible coinkydink.
UMass D (for D), the taxpayer-funded rock under which licence-plate-counting resort-casino-evangelist, Clyde Barrow remains coiled for most of the year, releases a pro-casino poll, at the very moment when our state senators are suddenly remembering that they've forgotten to do their annual two minutes worth of homework on the casino issue, just hours before deciding whether to sign the worst gambling bill in a decade into law, and shoots it off in an e-mail, on college letterhead and in tightly written text, to all the local news outlets.
My, what a godsend. Like Cliff Notes with video.
Why is it that none of TV news stations mentions a similar poll, performed by Western Mass. College from two years ago? A poll that produced exactly the same figure as UMass D - 56% in favor of a casino. Could it be that the results of this particular poll also revealed that 57% of respondents opposed a casino where they live.
Which is kind of funny when you remember that map, the one with the 3 circles encompassing a 50 mile radius around 3 hypothetical casinos, illustrating the area where all the negative impacts from one casino tend to settle.
Ok, sure, if you want to quibble, you could argue that the black dot where Middleboro is should now slide southwesterly and park itself in either Fall River or New Bedford. But still, when you add Deval's concessionary slot parlor in Raynham or Plainville to the mix - you're still looking looking at a triple whammy for Central and Southeastern Mass, the North Shore and the Cape.
Now, let's just say, hypothetically, that 100% of all Mass residents were aware of that map - which in reality, only a fraction of a fraction of a half a percent actually do - and then a pollster from UMass called a random sampling of folks from across the state and asked if they were feeling all sunny and positive about a casino in Massachusetts.
Would you suppose that particular statistic would still be hovering around 56 %. Or even over 50%.
Because if you do, you're dreaming.
But what do any of these pesky factual nuances matter to the journalistic heroes of TV news, when they can get a free pre-digested news story, along with an academic stamp of approval, and an opportunity to roll all that neat casino stock footage.
Maybe I'm a little sensitive, because last week members of the USS-Mass coalition sat down with Greg Bialecki, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and his staff, to discuss the current gambling bill and later issued this press release titled:
GAMBLING OPPONENTS QUESTION ADMINISTRATION’S GRASP OF EXPANDED PREDATORY GAMBLING ISSUES.
Which the media ignored entirely.
…coalition leaders were dismayed by the absence of answers to questions about revenue, regulations, jobs and social impacts.Now I ask, would you rather get played by a taxpayer-funded strategically-timed story written by pro-gambling interests, running on all news outlets that simply reveals how little people still fully grasp about casinos.
“We were shocked to learn they did not have answers to simple questions”, stated Tom Larkin, President of United to Stop Slots.
- How much revenue is expected, short and long term?
- How many jobs are expected short and long term?
- What are the financial costs to the state to set up the regulatory structure?
- What will be the effect on the State Lottery?
- How are projections derived to estimate gambling addiction and money spend or lost in Connecticut?
- What plans do the Administration have to constrain political corruption?
“An independent cost-benefit analysis has never been done by the Administration, therefore, they cannot provide straight answers to basic questions”, concluded Larkin.
- How much gambling revenue will come from “new” money as compared to the redistribution of existing money?
Or be informed by a real story about a major piece of legislation, promoted by our Governor, that will create a new tax-payer funded bureaucracy, increase crime and social costs, that won't solve our fiscal woes or create as many jobs as promised, and which the Governor's own top adviser fails to even remotely grasp?
We're just sitting here waiting for your call Heather Unruh...
Still accepting interviews, Adam Williams...
C'mon and help us Hank!