Steve Grossman believes strongly that the Treasurer, as the head of the State Lottery, should have a prominent seat at the table in any expansion of gaming in Massachusetts.
While Steve has in the past expressed reservations about government dependence on gaming revenues, the reality is that Massachusetts citizens spend an estimated $1 billion annually at casinos in neighboring states. The governor and our legislative leadership have concluded that we cannot afford to lose that revenue. In addition, with unemployment at 9%, we cannot afford to turn away the opportunity for thousands of good-paying jobs (the average salary is estimated to be $40,000/year) with benefits.
Gaming is no cure-all -- as shown by sharp declines in gaming profitability during the current recession. But it can mean more local aid for the Commonwealth's cities and towns and thousands of desperately needed jobs in construction and support businesses as well as in casinos themselves.
Steve Grossman will work vigorously to ensure that gaming in Massachusetts meets rigorous public policy standards:
* Aid to local communities from the Lottery must be preserved and, in fact, enhanced. The Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns received more than $800 million in aid last year from the Lottery. The consensus of experts is that casino gaming will undercut the Lottery and, just as Lottery revenues are earmarked for local aid, so must the state set aside a significant share of gaming money for the cities and towns.
* The Commonwealth must be protected against liability from failed projects. Rhode Island's Twin Rivers fiasco should be an object lesson that success is not guaranteed and that the state could be left holding the bag if a project goes bankrupt. We cannot have that kind of financial exposure in Massachusetts gaming ventures.
* A portion of gaming revenues should be dedicated to helping citizens with the management of their personal finances. Traditionally, states have set aside a portion of gaming revenues to deal with gaming addiction and to deal with people in financial trouble because of gaming losses. But the Commonwealth should go further. Steve believes that some gaming money also should be invested in financial education.
* Dedicate a portion of the gaming revenues to the Commonwealth's rainy day fund. The fund has been depleted to dangerously low levels by the current recession. Gaming revenues are cyclical -- and cannot be counted on to remain robust during an economic downturn. The New York Times found a 7.4% drop in state revenues from casinos in last year. Gaming is precisely the kind of revenue that grows most during good times and should be partially saved to get us through hard times.