Valley Advocate: Stein Stands Alone Against Gambling

by Maureen Turner
The Valley Advocate, Thursday, April 29, 2010

Earlier this month, as the Massachusetts House took up—and quickly passed—Speaker Robert DeLeo's bill to build two casinos and add slots machines at four racetracks, Jill Stein, the Green-Rainbow party's gubernatorial candidate, headed to the Statehouse with other opponents to deliver a petition calling for a casino and slots boycott.

The online petitioncalls on the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick "to reject attempts to establish a government-endorsed program of predatory gambling in Massachusetts."

"The predatory gambling industry is harmful to local businesses, undermines sound job growth, and fosters addiction, bankruptcy, crime, divorce and other social problems," the petition reads. "Building casinos locks us in to high greenhouse gas emissions and make[s] our economy vulnerable to oil price shock. In the final analysis, these problems will consume more tax dollars than we can recover from gambling taxes."

Signers also pledged to not go to casinos or slots parlors and to "strongly encourage my children and family members to avoid such establishments. Instead, I pledge to direct my discretionary expenditures into locally-owned, productive businesses that are good neighbors in the community, that do not exploit people with addictions, workers, or the environment, and which are the best way of creating permanent jobs in a sustainable economy."

The petition was posted on April 6, and by the end of last week had collected about 500 signatures.


In announcing her support of the effort, Stein had especially harsh words for DeLeo, who declined to hold public hearings on his bill. (Senate President Therese Murray, who in the past has supported casinos but not slots, has said that body will hold public hearings before it votes on any casino bill. The Senate is expected to take up its own version of a casino bill in the next couple of months, after the passage of the new state budget.)

Stein accused the speaker of "attempting to ram [the bill] through the House," just days after accepting campaign contributions from casino lobbyists. DeLeo held a major campaign fundraiser the week before the House casino vote. The list of donors won't be available until Sept. 7, the next filing deadline for legislators' campaign finance reports.

According to the Associated Press, in 2009, DeLeo received $8,000 in donations from lobbyists for firms that count casino interests among their clients. Murray received $7,800; Patrick, $4,900; Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, $8,100.

Stein also took on the claim, made by gambling supporters, that casinos will create much-needed jobs. "Rather than letting casinos suck money out of our economy, we should be supporting local small businesses, and creating good wage green jobs that will be here for the long haul," she said. "We can create more jobs per dollar spent by avoiding casinos and slots. And we can also avoid the burden of permanent casino blight, which includes failed small businesses, gambling addiction, bankruptcies, broken families, crime, sprawl and pollution.

"Casinos kill more jobs than they create. And coping with the problems caused by casino gambling will cost taxpayers more than will be received in tax revenue. This is a bad deal for the people of Massachusetts, and truth needs to be told before an irreversible mistake is made by the Legislature."

Among the other gubernatorial candidates, Patrick supports casinos but opposes racetrack slot machines. His opponent for the Democratic nomination, Grace Ross (the Green-Rainbow candidate in 2006), neither supported nor opposed DeLeo's bill "because it pits 'different good forces against each other'—advocates for jobs and revenue against people concerned about the social impact," the Boston Globe recently reported. Independent Tim Cahill and Republican Charlie Baker both support casinos, while Republican Christy Mihos opposes the creation of casinos but does support racetrack slots.