Thursday, April 25, 2013

Comments regarding the proposed slots parlor

I was asked by several members of the community to post my testimony before the City Council on Tuesday. It here follows.

My name is Tracy O'Connell Novick and I serve on the Worcester School Committee. It is in that capacity that I am before you tonight.
The petition I have placed before you tonight mirrors an item placed on the School Committee agenda for Thursday. It is my grave concern over an apparent rush to negotiate that I placed the item here as well.
I would further call your attention to the fact that I represent a constituency unable to vote.
Mr. Chair, you and this Council know me--I do not appear before you without doing research. When I learned that Rush Street Gaming was proposing a slots parlor for Worcester, I naturally looked at slots parlors and at Rush Street Gaming.
Regarding slots parlors--
Teenagers have an addiction to gambling at 2 to 4 times the rate of adults. Due to their still developing pre-frontal cortex, teenagers are uniquely in danger of developing an addiction to gambling, as they are to other addictive behaviors. It is ironic, Mr. Chair, that at a time this city is considering the creation of a high school for those in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol, we would be considering a facility that will allow for the creation of new addicts--gamblers. As addiction to gambling correlates with other addictive behaviors...let's just say, Mr. Chair, that if we open a slots parlor, we're going to need that high school.
Of course, teenagers are not allowed in a slots parlor. Rush Street Gaming has a history, however, of allowing underaged gamblers into their facilities. In multiple facilities in mulitple states, they have been fined, repeatedly, for underaged gamblers.
They don't, Mr. Chair, respect the law
I've been asked--wouldn't you like to see the tax base increase? I would--and this won't do it. Every slot machine removes the equivalent of a job from the local economy, with the discretionary (and non-discretionary) money it vacuums up and sends out of state. For this proposed facility, that's 1250 jobs per year that Worcester will be losing.
Moreover, an increase in the tax base assumes that Rush Street Gaming pays their taxes as assessed. But, Mr. Chair, they don't do that anywhere else--why do we think Worcester would be any different?In every single city in which they operate, Rush Street Gaming has appealed their tax assessment. In Pittsburgh, the casino had barely opened their doors when Rush Street filed for an appeal. They have done so in every subsequent year as well.
These cities have to go to court, time and again, against Rush Street's well-funded lawyers to collect their taxes.
This has a particular danger in Massachusetts. Should a slots parlor open here, its assessment will be added to the aggregate wealth of the community.
That means our Chapter 70 aid will be cut.
...which would be fine, except that our aggregate wealth won't be higher.
The city will be on the hook for the difference, but won't have the money to pay the school budget because we have made a deal with someone who does not pay his assessed taxes.
The same is true, Mr. Chair, unrestricted lottery aid. It has already fallen for FY14; it will, we know, fall further with a slots parlor. To tie our local tax base to a bad dealer is folly.
This is just a glimpse, Mr. Chair, of the economic instability and detrimental impacts of a slots parlor. It has been said by those who study them that there is nothing so destabilizing to the local economy as a slots parlor. Mitigation is not possible--it is too destructive.
I ask, Mr. Chair, for myself and for my constituents--who cannot vote--do not enter into these negotiations.

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