As the casino and gaming industry continues to grow in Massachusetts, gubernatorial candidate Jeff McCormick, running as an independent in the November election, announced at a Suffolk University roundtable that he would support a repeal of the state’s standing casino law.
Signed into effect by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in 2011, the casino law created three regions across the Commonwealth and allowed for one destination casino resort to exist in each region, with the additional of one single slots facility statewide. At the Wednesday forum, which was part of an ongoing speaker series for declared gubernatorial candidates, McCormick said he is most concerned with social impacts of casinos on local communities.
“It’s not the law specifically [that he disagrees with],” said Pete Wilson, the press secretary for McCormick’s campaign. “He just personally doesn’t think that casinos are necessarily the answer for economic development. It’s more of a band aid than a driver on a state’s economy.”
Over the next few years, casinos are expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 construction jobs, 8,000 to 10,000 permanent jobs and $300 to $500 million in increased revenue to the Commonwealth, said Elaine Driscoll, director of communications at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Wilson said McCormick is aware of the revenue and job growth casinos bring to the region, but he is focusing on the holistic effects of gaming facilities in Massachusetts, rather than looking strictly at the economic benefits.
“You have to look it as a whole,” he said. “Do they bring in revenue to the local and state communities? Sure. But what are the impacts on the people who frequent the casinos and their livelihoods?”
If elected as governor, McCormick will not automatically repeal the law. He plans to evaluate the effects of casinos on residents in surrounding communities and make a decision from there, Wilson said.
Steve Grossman, democratic candidate for governor, supported the legislation to legalize gaming because of the economic opportunity it provides for the region, Communications Director for the Grossman campaign Chandra Allard.
“At a time when we have 250,000 people out of work, when unemployment within some of the construction trades recently ran near 40 percent, Steve believes this law serves the interests of the people of Massachusetts,” she said. “In addition to creating jobs, this law could bring in $300 million in much-needed new revenue to the state. This revenue will enable us to pay for vital programs … that will improve the quality of life for all.”
Republican candidate Charles Baker and the Massachusetts Republican Party were both unable to be reached for commenton Monday.
Several residents said casinos can contribute to the Massachusetts economy, but they can create social problems for the Commonwealth’s residents.
Ralph Covino, 61, of Boston, said casinos will bring revenue and job growth to the Commonwealth, and the standing casino law should not be repealed.
“It’s going to bring jobs,” he said “Those that want to go [to casinos] will go to the competitors in Connecticut and Rhode Island. [Having casinos here] will take that money and put it back into our own economy. There’s crime everywhere, and this isn’t going to necessarily enhance it.”
Daniel Lee, 33, of Kenmore, said the social affects of gaming in Massachusetts are not worth the economic benefits.
“It’s revenue, but it doesn’t do people in the state any good,” he said. “People can get addicted to gambling, and this can make people addicted to gambling even worse.”
Daniel Ohman, 60, of East Boston, said casinos could have negative economic implications on the community it resides in.
“They drain local businesses surrounding the casino,” he said. “I’ve been fighting the casino for a while in East Boston. It invites corruption. It invites a real upsetting the infrastructure. And socially, it’s not something I want to see.”