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Opinion

Casino gambling in Massachusetts: the dice heard 'round the world

Massachusetts should reject this false elixir for revenue.

By Brian Wolfel / August 5, 2010



Tucson, Ariz.

The legislative push to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts has faltered – for now – but the prospects of what supporters say would be 15,000 permanent jobs and $355 million in annual state revenues will be hard for state lawmakers to resist going forward. Gambling has been the central force dominating Governor Deval Patrick’s agenda since 2007. No matter what happens in November’s election, the issue isn’t going away.

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Amid a budget shortfall and high unemployment, people see policy primarily through the lens of money and jobs, as if Mammon is the only god left to worship. They do not see casinos as lasting institutions that will dot our landscape – and erode our culture – forevermore.

If sanctioned, casinos may well claim legitimacy for generations to come. Should Americans come to think of Massachusetts as a place where they once played roulette, rather than the place where they learned about early American history and values at places like Old Sturbridge Village, Plimoth Plantation, and Boston’s Freedom Trail?

Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest and most-educated states in the country, yet it is still racing to “get in the game” alongside gambling-friendly neighbors Rhode Island and Connecticut to pursue a false elixir.

Why should Massachusetts settle its economic troubles by trodding down the paths of others?

Birthplace of modern democracy

The “shot heard ‘round the world” in Concord, Mass., which ushered in the first battle of the American Revolutionary War, is in my view the most significant event in Massachusetts history. It defines Massachusetts eternally as the birthplace of America and concurrently the birthplace of modern democracy. It follows that Massachusetts set its own course and did not follow the lead of other colonies in seeking independence from Britain’s tyranny.

The phrase “shot heard ‘round the world” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the most influential American philosophers, Emerson founded Transcendentalism and offered Henry David Thoreau his land to build a camp near the shores of Walden Pond in Concord.

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