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Casinos aren’t like just any other business


July 16, 2014

G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com

I just received an email from the American Gaming Association (AGA), a trade group for the gaming industry. Since it did not implore me to wire money to someone or buy a new miracle cure for something, I took a look.

It seems the group has launched a new campaign, “Get to Know Gaming,” and sent me and the five million other journalists on its mailing list the following message: “As casino gaming expanded across the United States, New Jersey was slow to react. Other communities should learn from their mistake and rapidly adopt policies that empower gaming companies to innovate, retain and attract new customers and operate efficiently. 

“The ‘tax-and-torture’ model adopted by many gaming communities is unsustainable. Gaming companies seek further partnerships with forward-looking policymakers who realize that punitive regulations and taxes are counter-productive and, with the right policies, casinos can be one component of a successful economic development strategy.

“The AGA’s ‘Get to Know Gaming’ campaign is helping to pave the way for more states to understand casinos’ contributions and adopt policies that reflect that mindset.  Learn more at GetToKnowGaming.org.”   

So I went to the site and it presented information on how many commercial casinos there are, how many people they employ, what they grossed and what they paid in taxes. They have a simple message: casinos are a good thing and they should be treated like any other business.

Really? I understand what they are saying, but I’m not sure I agree with it. The gaming business is indeed different than someone who is selling shoes or renting apartments or printing custom T-shirts. The products and services they sell are, first of all, age-restricted. Just like tobacco, alcohol and adult entertainment, casino gaming is for adults.

There are no age restrictions at a shoe store.

One must remember that casino gaming has had a checkered history. Now I’m not implying anything about any company attempting to do business in the Bay State, but let me be discreet and just note that in the past stuff has happened.

There is little controversy about custom T-shirt printing, except of course what the customer elects to put on the shirt.

The products and services casinos supply can lead to human beings making poor decisions and developing an addiction that is a serious mental health risk.

No one that I ever met has had an addiction to apartments.

I will be the first one to say that adults should have the right to gamble in safe and legal environments. Many casinos across the nation have shown a commitment to both their employees and communities. There are many responsible and civic-minded people in the industry. I’m also comfortable believing that casinos really do not want people to ruin their lives through gambling. These folks are not monsters.

Casinos are not necessarily cash cows that can be milked incessantly by elected officials either.

I beg the folks at the AGA not to try to make out an $800 million casino plunked in the middle of Springfield’s downtown to be the same in spirit as any other business because it is not. There are not many $800 million shopping malls or convenience stores or flower shops, are there?

Casinos are a singular business. What they sell and how they sell it is different than any other business venture. Yes, they intersect with hotel, tourism and restaurants, but they are still quite unique.

My humble prediction is this tact will not work if their effort is to aid and abet the pro-casino advocates currently preparing their assault across the Commonwealth. People will see through its aw shucks approach to characterizing the casino industry.

There was one piece of news on the website that may hearten the pro-casinos side. They reported, “Voters view casino gaming more favorably than ever before, as majority believes casinos create jobs, strengthen communities and support local businesses. The AGA released the results of an annual survey that assesses the perception of the gaming industry and reveals the profile of casino patrons. The research comes from a national telephone survey conducted May 17-22, 2014 by public opinion researchers: Mark Mellman, CEO of the Mellman Group, and Glen Bolger, founder and partner of Public Opinion Strategies.”

The battle has yet to begin and I’m sure all of us will be glad when it is done.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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