In my periodic screeds opposing the (probably inevitable) legalization of casino gaming in Massachusetts I try insofar as possible to stay away from the purely moralistic/nanny state argument. Yes, I think casinos prey on human weakness, depend for profitability on the assumption that individuals (and by extension, families) will be destroyed financially on a regular basis, and are a losing proposition for the vast majority of the people who walk through their doors. But whatever. People make their own decisions, and sometimes society doesn’t even have to absorb a share of the consequences.
I just don’t think the state should be putting its eggs in that basket and calling it “economic development.” I am absolutely convinced that the predictions and promises being tossed around by supporters – both as to jobs and revenues – are complete nonsense. Utterly bogus, and very obviously so. Oh, and I don’t want one anywhere near my house.
But it is hard to evaluate the latest bit of casino non-debate news without getting into the moral angle at least a little bit. In case you missed it, here’s the Globe article today discussing an amendment passed yesterday by the Senate to allow casinos to give out free alcoholic beverages to patrons. An additional amendment was tacked on – a bone to the restaurant and bar lobby – that will resurrect “Happy Hour” in Massachusetts for the first time since 1984, allowing those establishments to offer free and discounted drinks as well. It’s only fair.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not going to lie: I expect I will enjoy a Happy Hour from time to time. But do you see how quickly the race to the bottom has started here, before so much as a single spade hits the dirt on a casino site?
And look at the paired acknowledgements implied in the Happy Hour move:
(1) Casinos are going to suck the life out of existing bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues in their respective geographic areas. Some of these will undoubtedly close, cutting further into the casino initiative’s already inflated net jobs numbers. And
(2) The ability to offer “Happy Hour” incentives is a boon to restaurants and bars, a way to help them grow (or, as to the ones unlucky enough to find a Flamingo Northeast going up down the block, a flimsy lifeline offering at least the fragile hope of survival). If this is true, then presumably it was equally true in 1984, when that ability was stripped from our hospitality industry; and equally true in each of the years between then and now. But until now state government didn’t care. Only when it can be used to smooth over one of the few significant speed bumps on the road to casinoville does the legislature suddenly take note of the economic upside to Happy Hour.
And what about the rationale for the Happy Hour ban in the first place?… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS