NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 3, 2013

Our view: Salisbury made right bet on slots parlor

Kudos to Salisbury Selectmen Freeman Condon, Don Beaulieu and Henry Richenberg for taking the prudent course of steering clear of a proposed slots parlor on Route 110.

The plan had all the marks of a badly-thought-out rush job. Salisbury was the third choice of the developers, behind Boxborough, which snubbed it outright, and Danvers, which appears ready to dump it, too.

Gross errors made in the developer’s presentation to selectmen — for instance, understating the size of the building by a factor of 10 and overstating the number of slot machines by a factor of 10 — made it obvious that not all ducks were in a row. Not even close.

Selectmen were also up against a tight deadline. They had to negotiate a deal before the end of the month, on a development plan that is being thrown together on the fly. This was a plan that would have had widespread impact on Salisbury and surrounding communities for years to come.

In the end, there were too many variables and not enough time. Salisbury selectmen backed out by a vote of 3-2. Good for them. It was the wise choice to make.

Massachusetts lawmakers have voted to allow three casinos and a slots parlor to be built in the state. What we’re seeing now is the mad scramble by several development companies to win one of the coveted licenses.

The lure of gambling money is enticing to public officials. There are potentially millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs dangling before towns that are being wooed by the development companies. But none of it is guaranteed, and if we look for a moment at the trends in the gambling industry, those starry-eyed enticements are in fact clouded and blurry.

Foxwoods in Connecticut, the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere, is struggling to get out from underneath its enormous debts. It built a complex that outstrips the demand for gambling, and it is now paying the price. Across the river, its major competitor Mohegan Sun has gone through round after round of layoffs. It has laid off about one-third of the 10,000 employees it had prior to the 2008 recession.

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