By Kelly Marcimo
Special to the Worcester Business JournalLast year, like many people, I was not opposed to the introduction of casinos to Massachusetts. I had only my personal experience of going to Las Vegas on business where, after playing a slot machine for about 20 minutes, I had given the casino $60 and had nothing to show for it.
Perhaps some people would want to have casinos close to home. Since I was smart enough to know that the opulence of the casino comes from the people losing, I would not be the one to contribute. If other individuals wanted the opportunity to gamble, why should I object?
What I have learned through researching this issue for the League of Women Voters has changed my opinion. I now completely oppose the idea of casinos and slot machines in the commonwealth.
Success for casinos operators will come at the expense of the local economy and local business that will lose the flow of discretionary spending to an industry that does not create any positive secondary business growth.
Proposed tax revenue from casinos is regressive, hitting lower income families harder than high-income families and is not stable. Casinos eat other forms of tax revenues, e.g., lottery and sales tax. Nor is it inexpensive or easy to collect. Casinos require new bureaucracies to collect revenues and for oversight. Measure the losses to business, tax revenues and the added oversight and social costs and you find casinos cost states more than the revenue they promise.
According to gambling industry executives, 85 percent of the industry's revenue comes from 20 percent of the players, the vast majority from slot machines. The modern slot machine is engineered to keep patrons "playing to extinction." They're engineered to make players repeatedly think they've almost hit a jackpot to encourage more play. Modern psychology is used to stack the odds against us. The sounds, seating, algorithms and calculations are all designed to confuse and stimulate the player. When you consider casinos ply players with free alcohol to further cloud their judgment, it is a business unlike any other.
The slot machine of today does not use the old spinning reels with limited mechanical stops to determine whether you win or lose. Today's slot machine computer is constantly running. This technology is called the Random Number Generator or RNG. The casino industry refers to the RNG as the "Real New God," and your odds of becoming President of the United States are better than your odds of winning the jackpot.
Other industries use consumer loyalty cards to track your purchases for stocking and promotion of actual goods. Slot machine loyalty cards track the speed at which customers play the slots. The quicker you play the machine, the bigger the rewards - free meals and tokens - to lure you back again. By design, they target the players exhibiting addictive tendencies.
Casinos and anything that houses slot machines are not good for our economy or our citizens. We need to look to industries such as life sciences, financial services, information technology and renewable energy to create jobs and demand for other beneficial industries.
The belief that expanding gambling in Massachusetts will solve our budget crisis is not much different than hoping a night at the casino will solve your
personal financial crisis. The odds are not in our favor.
Kelly Marcimo is the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. She can be reached at email@example.com.