Question 3 and Casinos – A missing link

It’s surprising the “Rollback the sales tax” crowd hasn’t hit on an important point in favor of their ballot question, Question 3.

According to a recent report Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville CT will begin laying off employees. This is due to a decline in business caused by the recession. Massachusetts on the other hand wants to build three casinos.

Where the Question 3 people are missing the boat is they should turn this negative into a positive. Besides the fact the casino industry is not doing well, which in itself is reason to not pass casino legislation, there are other reasons as well, which tie in nicely with the reasons to pass Question 3.

There are three main reasons the casino proponents cite as to why we need casinos here in Mass. First there is the promise of jobs, second is the amount of Massachusetts cars spotted in the casino parking lots, which translates into Massachusetts dollars going onto Connecticut, and third the extra tax revenue.

On the first point, according to figures released by, rolling back the taxes to 3% will create 33,000 jobs. Governor Patrick says the casinos will only generate 15,000 jobs, and most of these will be short-term construction jobs. Even if you use the argument that the 33,000 jobs created by the sales tax rollback will be low-paying retail jobs, (a claim which has also been made about most of the casino jobs) they are still jobs and in an industry which does not show signs of going away anytime soon.

The second point is the amount of business which the state now loses to Connecticut. While the Question 3 people can not seem to provide a dollar amount on the increase in sales which will be generated from Connecticut, New York, Vermont and Rhode Island due to our sales tax being lower, or the amount of business which may no longer cross the border to New Hampshire, it should be a significant amount. And a good part of this increase in sales should go to locally owned businesses along the border instead of to the large corporations which run the casinos.

The extra tax revenue generated by the casinos is a hard argument to fight. But an increase in retail sales will not require the infrastructure improvements needed if casinos are built. Again, one can argue these improvements will be paid by the casino owners, however there are more improvements than just a new exit off the Turnpike as they are proposing in Palmer. There could be, and most likely would be an influx of new residents moving to these cities and towns, these residents will require schools and housing. While one can argue that the casinos won’t require new people, just a transfer from another area of the state, the people will still need schools etc. the only difference will be in the area from which they come from will now suffer the loss of the income provided by these people. There is also a possibility of an increase in crime in the surrounding areas which, while there could be some increase due to the extra retail business, it would most likely be negligible.

Finally, casinos would only add more agencies to regulate the casino industries costing more taxpayers money to support them. If other state agencies are any indication, the Massachusetts Gambling Commission will by long on high paid salaried employees with all the perks which come with it, while passing question 3 will force the state to cut back on some of those unnecessary jobs.

Perhaps the “Rollback the Sales Tax” crowd and the “CasiNO’s” crowd should talk to each other.

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