Talk About Horsing Around on Casinos

Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray put forward a new gaming bill yesterday, calling for the creation of three resort casinos and a slot-parlor here in Massachusetts. There’s plenty to discuss about the legislation — you could start by talking about how the thing was basically formed in secret and go on from there.

But just for today, let’s focus on one particularly curious aspect of the legislation. From today’s Globe:

The casinos would pay the state 25 percent of their revenues; the slot parlor would pay the state 40 percent of its take, and another 9 percent to a special fund to boost purses for the struggling horse-racing industry.

Could somebody please explain to me why we ought to be paying any percent of anything to try to save the horse racing industry? I realize that if the tracks close, people will lose their jobs. But with three new resort casinos and a slot parlor likely on the way, we’ll more than replace those positions. Horse racing is dying a very natural death in Massachusetts. People aren’t interested in it anymore, so the tracks are losing money. They should go out of business. There’s no sense in trying to prop them up.

I don’t know for sure, but it’s hard to imagine this nine percent provision wasn’t some sort of trade-off for DeLeo agreeing to give up his demand that slots-licenses be automatically granted to the tracks (he’s got two in his district). Instead the slot-parlor will be competitively bid under the proposed bill. If that seems like a victory for common sense, rest assured, the interests of the very much obsolete horse-racing industry in Massachusetts remain well taken care of.