Economic benefit of destination resort casinos in Massachusetts
For weeks I have carefully considered whether we should expand gaming in Massachusetts. After thoroughly reviewing the arguments and the analysis on both sides of the issue, I believe authorizing three resort casinos will have significant economic benefits to Massachusetts. Done the right way, resort casinos can play a useful part, along with other initiatives in life sciences, renewable energy, and education reform, in providing our Commonwealth with sustainable, long-term economic growth.
Three high-quality, resort casinos would generate over $2 billion annually in new economic activity, bolster tourism to the Bay State, create over 20,000 permanent new jobs at good wages and benefits, and engage the services of over 30,000 construction workers. That kind of economic activity spurs the sale of other goods and services, creating a jobs multiplier effect within our local economy.
Economic growth is critical in order for us to deal honestly and responsibly with the neglect of the past 16 years. Our roads and bridges need billions of dollars of repairs and ongoing maintenance. We must reform our education system to prepare young people for the competitive challenges of our global economy, and continue to position Massachusetts for the jobs of the 21st century. And we must accomplish all this without putting an unfair burden on those in our community who have been hit hard by rising property taxes over the past few years. The only way to meet these responsibilities fairly and equitably is to advance initiatives that will provide long-term, sustainable economic growth. Destination resort casinos can serve a useful role in our overall economic development plan.
I did not come to this decision lightly. If we proceed down this path, we must ensure that we adhere to sound economic, public safety and public health principles, as well as develop a strong oversight and enforcement mechanism for casinos.
To that end, we will limit the number of casinos to three, and ensure that they are destination resort casinos and not "racinos." The fewer the number, the more likely we are to maximize their economic benefits and tax revenues. At the same time, it is important to allocate these opportunities equitably around the Commonwealth in order to attract tourists and residents from different regions of New England and beyond.
We will also regulate resort casinos professionally and independent of politics. The auctioning of the casino licenses must be an open and transparent process, overseen by financial experts and free from any political interference. Oversight and regulation of resort casinos should be entrusted to an independent authority, while enforcement should be the responsibility of a new division within the Attorney General's office. All costs related to regulation and enforcement will be born by an assessment on the casinos themselves.We will also provide significant resources to mitigate any anticipated social costs. Specifically, we will set aside a portion of the casino revenue in a separate trust account for programs to prevent and treat compulsive gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and other related public health concerns, so that we can address and monitor the impact on people for whom gambling is more than harmless entertainment. I have asked my Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Public Safety to design best-in-the-nation programs to address these issues, and the percentage of gaming revenues dedicated to supporting these programs will be among the highest of any in the country. In addition, we will also set aside a portion of monies for host and surrounding communities who bear the burden associated with any significant increase in people and traffic.
Finally, we will dedicate the revenue from resort casinos toward repairing our roads, rails and bridges, as well as toward a significant property tax credit program for homeowners.
Our roads, rails, buses and bridges are showing the effects and results of over 16 years of neglect by previous administrations. Without better and safer roads and bridges we compromise our economic future and our quality of life. By investing a significant portion of the resort casino revenue toward improving roads we accelerate the growth in economic opportunities in every region, ensure the safety of our public roads and bridges, and address effectively one of the greatest fiscal challenges we face - without an increase in the gas tax.
The remaining resort casino revenue will be distributed to homeowners across the state in the form of an income tax credit to offset property tax bills. Families, seniors and young people trying to settle in our state face rapidly escalating property taxes. Indeed, these new resources provide us the opportunity to deliver property tax credits directly to homeowners and thereby help to lessen the burden of property taxes on working families in the Commonwealth.
Needless to say, our way forward does not and should not depend on the governor's views alone. The Legislature will have to enact new laws to make this vision a reality. The needs and wishes of affected communities must be heard. No resort casino should be sited before receiving a transparent, engaged public review.
If we proceed under these conditions, with care and transparency, I believe destination resort casinos can bring significant economic benefits to the Commonwealth, and become a part of our overall plan for long-term, sustainable economic growth. Done the right way, resort casinos can join the many other reasons why Massachusetts is an international destination for travelers and tourists and a wonderful place to live.
On Sept. 18, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's office furnished this OpEd essay to newspapers throughout the state.