Governor Deval L. Patrick
Destination Resort Casino Plan Announcement
September 17, 2007
Welcome everyone. Thank you for coming.
For several weeks now I have carefully considered whether we should expand gaming in Massachusetts. And after thoroughly reviewing the arguments and the analysis on both sides of the question, I can confidently report to you that there is no obvious answer for the Commonwealth.
Casino gambling is neither a "cure all," nor the end of civilization. On balance, however, and under certain conditions, I believe resort casinos can work well in and for the Commonwealth. Fundamentally gaming is a business.
Three high quality and properly sited resort casinos would, using conservative estimates, generate over $2 billion annually in new economic activity, create over 20,000 new jobs at good wages with benefits, employ tens of thousands of construction workers, and bolster tourism, already a significant industry here in the Commonwealth.
That kind of economic activity spurs sales of other goods and services, creating a jobs multiplier effect in our economy. With that potential economic benefit we cannot reject the gaming industry out of hand. 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 repairs and ongoing maintenance. We must further reform our education system to prepare young people for the competitive challenges and the opportunities of today's and tomorrow's global economy. And we must accomplish all this without putting an unfair burden on those in our community who have been hit hardest in the past few years by rising property taxes.
The only way to meet these responsibilities fairly and equitably is to advance initiatives that will provide long-term, sustainable economic growth. Our initiatives in life sciences, renewable energy and education reform, together with the day to day work we do with and for supporting businesses that are already growing and creating jobs here are central to our strategy to stimulate long-term economic growth in the Commonwealth.
Destination resort casinos can serve a useful role in our overall economic plan. But there is a right way and a wrong way to proceed. Because some of the impact of casino gambling is negative.
Studies show that gambling addiction increases within the areas surrounding a casino, particularly in the early years, in the first few years. Increases in drug and alcohol abuse, personal bankruptcy, and even domestic violence have been documented. It's true that many of our residents already gamble at out of state facilities, and bring these very problems home to Massachusetts. And the incidence of any one of these social ills is statistically small-about 4 or 5 percent. But the impact on affected individuals or families can be devastating.
These realities compel us to treat this industry differently than other kinds of businesses. In my view, the right way to introduce casinos to Massachusetts is to adhere to sound economic, public safety, and public health principles, as well as to establish a strong mechanism for oversight and regulation.
To that end, we will limit the number of resort casinos to three. Fewer casinos will maximize the potential economic benefits. At the same time, it's important to allocate these few casinos equitably around the Commonwealth, and to assure that each is tasteful and appropriate in order to attract tourists and other patrons from different regions of New England and beyond.
I envision one in western Massachusetts, one in southeastern Massachusetts, and one in the Greater Metropolitan Boston area.
We will also regulate casinos vigilantly, professionally, and independent of politics. Oversight and regulation of resort casinos should be entrusted to a new, independent gaming commission, while enforcement should be the responsibility of a new division in the Attorney General's office. All of the costs of regulation and enforcement will be borne by an assessment on the resort 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, the Public Health Trust Fund, is what we're calling it, for state-of-the-art 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.
In addition, we will set aside a portion of monies in a Community Mitigation Trust Fund, for host and surrounding communities who will bear the kinds of burdens in public safety, transportation and related kinds of burdens associated with any significant increase in people and traffic.
We will also provide for any short-term impact on the state lottery.
After providing for public health and safety, for local community and state lottery mitigation, and for the cost of regulation, three modest sized resort casinos would generate between $400 and $450 million in state casino tax revenue at full build-out. We will dedicate that revenue to improving transportation and to reducing property taxes.
Our roads, rails, buses, and bridges are showing the effects of over 16 years of neglect. Without better and safer transportation we compromise our economic future and quality of life. By investing casino tax revenue in refurbishing and expanding our transportation systems, we accelerate the growth of economic opportunities in every region, we ensure the safety of our public roadways and bridges, and we address effectively one of the greatest fiscal challenges we face-without an increase in the gas tax.
The remaining casino tax revenue will be distributed to homeowners across the state in the form of property tax relief. Families, seniors, and young people seeking to settle here face rapidly escalating property taxes, as you all know. New resources from casino taxes give us an opportunity to deliver property tax credits to homeowners, and thereby lessen the burden on working families.
Needless to say, our way forward does not depend, nor should it, 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 casino should be sited before a transparent, engaged public review. And compliance with public protection laws and sustainable, and Smart Growth development principles will be absolutely necessary.
But if we proceed under these conditions, with care and transparency, I believe resort casinos can bring significant economic benefits to the Commonwealth, with manageable impact on communities. 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.
I want to thank the members of the Internal Working Group, under the leadership of Secretary O'Connell, Secretary Bigby, Secretary Burke, and Secretary Kirwan who have read and consulted widely to help the Lieutenant Governor and I think through these decisions. I also want to thank the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, the Attorney General and the Treasurer, for their many insights and good advice. And I thank the many members of the general public who have written or called to express their opinions as well.