Middleboro Gambling: Breaking the Law for a False Panacea

David Mittell:

Like marijuana and hanging, casino gambling is against the law in Massachusetts. Yet by the power they invested in themselves, the 2,387 obliged the town and its officials to bear witness in favor of the $1 billion casino; and within moments selectmen signed a 21-page agreement binding themselves to do so.
I know people who would be just tickled to have a binding arrangement for selectmen to support their using lethal force against backfiring motorcyclists, amplified radiophiles and the like. That is absurd, of course, but the legal issue is the same: How can officials be bound to support an activity that is currently against the law? What of their oaths of office? What of the oaths of those who may be elected in the future, who may in good conscience be against the casino? What of oaths if circumstances change?! If the town’s lawyers and planning board prove to have been right? If environmental review foretells catastrophe? Selectmen I have covered have often taken longer to consider a motion to adjourn than Middleboro’s selectmen took to sign on the dotted line. Perhaps the 21 pages of small print will explain everything.
What Middleboro really did on Saturday was to place a bet on the town’s future. Like all bets it was against the odds. It was a sincere bet that their children’s children will live better in a gambling town than in the unconvincingly promoted “Cranberry Capital.” (The real Middleboro today is not a bog!) Good evidence that future reality is probably to the contrary was available; nonetheless, the bet was eagerly placed. That is why it is a bet against the odds, and why gamblers lose more often than they win. The lure of gambling is the illusion that the improbable, which can happen, will happen.

Perhaps they should turn their eyes to us? Dan Yorke was talking yesterday about how Rhode Island’s estimated gambling revenue from Twin River and Newport Grand is going down, down, down. Part of it is because the state has become less effective than the Connecticut casinos at attracting the kind of people who willingly like to have their pockets picked. (Aside: and a new, full-fledged casino in Middleboro won’t help our “plight” any!) Should Massachusetts ultimately go ahead with a casino, Connecticut will suffer the same reduction. Will the answer be more and bigger casinos? For, as I’ve often stated, perhaps the biggest addicts to state-sponsored gambling are the state governments who spend to the cap. And expect to keep spending a seemingly endless supply of gambling dough. Unfortunately, it is just as likely that the (State) house will go bust.

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