Governor Patrick, Don't Roll Out the Slot Parlors Just Yet

At this point, it’s pretty safe to add the State House’s debate over whether or not to legalize casinos to the list of things in Boston that feel like they will never, ever end — up there with winter, Mayor Menino’s time in office, and the Big Dig (What, you thought it was done? Better check the lights). With Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Terry Murray all in favor of expanded gambling, though, many feel that action may finally be coming. The only hangup has been that while DeLeo has insisted that we allow race tracks to install slot machines — his district includes both Wonderland Greyhound Park and Suffolk Downs horse track — Patrick has been dead set against it.

Yesterday, the governor indicated he was open to compromise. During a radio appearance on WTKK, he said, “If it helps get a deal, I will accept one slot parlor that is competitively bid anywhere in the commonwealth. I’ve been clear about that with the leadership, and I think that is the framework for an agreement on those principles.”

That’s a position he held briefly last summer, and it’s too bad that he’s returned to it. Slot parlors are bad news — not just socially, but for the economy as well. Two years ago, I wrote a column in the magazine about that very fact, and it remains just as true today as it was then. The key point:

According to a new study of West Virginia racinos published by Ball State University, counties that installed slots at racetracks benefited from a one-time employment boost of 1.1 percent. Over the course of 26 years, however, the average salary in those same counties fell by up to almost 3 percent. In other words, racinos create low-paying jobs that depress other salaries in the area.

There are plenty of other reasons that slot parlors would be bad for Massachusetts, some of which I cover in that column. Hopefully, the governor will reconsider.

Marquee photograph by Jeff Kubina/flickr