By now, you’ve heard the story by now – the people of Massachusetts have won the chance to repeal the previous Casino Law of 2011. The 2011 law allows for three regional resort casinos and one slots parlor. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has so far awarded a license to MGM Resorts International for an $800 million casino in Springfield, and to Penn National Gaming for a slots parlor at the Plainridge racetrack in Plainville. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that a question calling for repeal of the 2011 law can be on the November ballot.
This battle could be one of the worst since the Battle of Bunker Hill. Do you know about Bunker Hill? I didn’t really, so I started reading. I found some comparisons that are interestingly similar.
A History Lesson – The Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place mostly on a different hill, Breed’s Hill. Basically the British planned on taking the hills outside of Boston that were unprotected, so Colonial forces went to both Bunker & Breed Hill to take them over and fortify. So, the British, finding this out, attached the two hills. Two famous sayings came from this battle. The British expected the colonists to be scared away by their mere presence. It was during the Battle of Bunker Hill that Major General Howe gave his British soldiers the command “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” As the troops in their brightly colored uniforms and carrying heavy equipment marched in neat lines through farmer’s fields and over stone walls, the colonists continued to fire from behind embankments. The British proceeded to take the hills, but lost more man than any other battle. The saying that comes to mind is “winning the battle, but losing the war.” That battle demonstrated that relatively inexperienced colonial forces were willing and able to stand up to the more experienced fighting machine of the British regular army. Thus, we segue to the battle of 2014 – To allow casinos, or not allow casinos – that is the real question in Mass.
The Similarities – The politics of this SJC decision will decide some strange bedfellows. Candidates for governor and attorney general say they support giving voters the final say on whether the state should open its doors to casinos, and at the same time, candidates are deeply divided about whether casinos are a good idea. The colonists leaders didn’t agree on everything – slavery, taxation, or even British intervention. But, certainly they had the help of the French and certain Native American Tribes as well\ to band together and get rid of the British after the Revolutionary War. Isn’t this repeal vote a bit of a revolution of sorts? The politics of this agenda item could get real messy in that political arena – the state population will for certain be watching who is for and who is against.
And speaking of strange bedfellows, will we see a coalition of Wynn, MGM and Mohegan Sun to fight the anti-casino groups? Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a statement that MGM Resorts International’s recently licensed proposal to build an $800 million resort casino there is a “massive jobs generation project” his city needs. MGM Springfield’s president Michael Mathis said it’s prepared “to educate the voters on the enormous economic benefits that would be lost” by repeal. Mohegan Sun similarly promised to make its case as to why the law should stand. Casino companies, arguing their developments are job creators and economic engines for communities that have welcomed the projects, pledged an all-out effort to convince voters to keep the law. The Colonists had to overcome a much more experienced and wealthier foe in the British, something the No-Casino folks will have to bond together to fight the pro-casino groups. John Ribeiro’ Repeal The Casino Deal group estimates a difference of financial backing close to 100 to 1 – not odds, but dollars.
But I wonder, did the casino industry underestimate those who were against? Or did they just not get their point across, arrogantly thinking it wouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, Mohegan Sun has experienced disappointment at the hands of already in Palmer – but did they learn enough from it? Just like the big bad British, this under-estimation could help defeat the powerful casino industry in Massachusetts.
Religious freedom was also at stake during the revolutionary war – a freedom that we both enjoy and still struggle with in many ways today. The topic of gambling continues to include a foothold in the religious agenda. Organizations such as Massachusetts Family Institute and many religious leaders will join forces with John Ribeiro’ Repeal The Casino Deal group. He says opponents are prepared for a “David versus Goliath” fight. Notice the Old Testament reference.
Finally, is this the battle won, but the war lost for the “repealists?” In the revolutionary War ( from America’s point of view), the good guys won the war despite losing the battle. But it’s hard to figure out which side is the good guys. The Casino Industry promises jobs, improved transportation options, tax money staying in state instead of going to CT or RI or NY, and improvements in rundown cities such as Springfield. The Anti-casino group promises saving the state from the demise of the evils of a casino industry that thrives on the innocent – a predatory gambling industry – bringing addiction traffic problems, preying on the elderly and crime to the Commonwealth.
Reaction is pouring in after the state’s highest court ruled that a question seeking to repeal the Massachusetts casino gambling law could appear on the November state ballot. It will only crescendo to a fortissimo until November.
Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes! I’ve got news for you – the attacks have only just begun.
That’s all for now.
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