Casinos multiply as states, such as Massachusetts, hunt for jobs, revenue
Ohio, Kansas, and Maryland now have casinos. Florida may consider them. Massachusetts is poised to invite them in. Hard times tip the balance to economic over social issues, analysts say.
Massachusetts appears poised to open its doors to casino gambling – amid a flurry of recession-driven interest in gambling to boost jobs and tax revenue.Skip to next paragraph
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In Ohio, a new Cleveland casino is in the midst of hiring 500 workers to staff its gaming tables – and it’s one of four expected to open in the state after voters agreed to casinos in 2009. Casinos have opened in recent years in Kansas and Maryland. And in Florida, lawmakers are preparing a proposal to allow resort-style casinos.
Previous efforts to allow casino gambling in several of those states had failed – but times have changed.
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“When we hit recession, the attention of legislators and the weighing and balancing of economic considerations versus social considerations really swings toward the economic,” says Bill Eadington, an economics professor and the director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Thirty-five states now have casinos or other forms of Class III gambling such as slot machines. Twelve of those states have only Indian gambling, 11 have commercial gambling, and 12 have both, says Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
In 2007, legal gambling contributed about $25 billion to state governments, with the largest share coming from state lotteries, according to Professor Eadington.
Opportunities for drawing people from far away to a new casino have dwindled, now that about 90 percent of Americans live within a three-hour drive of a casino. But a city such as Boston has strong potential because it’s popular with tourists, and many Massachusetts residents who have been traveling to Connecticut and Rhode Island to gamble will opt to stay closer to home, Eadington says.
The Massachusetts plan, which passed the House with a 123-32 vote Wednesday, would take bids for three resort-hotel casinos in different regions, requiring developers to invest a minimum of $500 million in each. It would also take bids for a slots parlor, allowing as many as 1,250 slot machines. The casinos would pay a 25 percent tax on daily gambling revenue.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo estimates the plan will create 15,000 jobs -- 6,000 of them in construction.