While Berkshire County and Vermont have been spared the region's casino mania it is important to keep a wary eye on the progress of the epidemic.
In a report released on Monday, Moody's Investors Services predicted the easily predictable — that the opening of new casinos in the region over the next two years will force more Atlantic City casinos, two of which are already in bankruptcy, to close. By 2018, four new casinos are expected to open in New York state and two in Massachusetts, including a southeastern Massachusetts casino the Wall Street firm predicts will cut revenues by at least 20 percent at Rhode Island's Twin River casino. In spite of what the gambling industry claims, gambling revenue is not infinite. The pie will be divided into increasingly smaller pieces.
The other Massachusetts casino expected to open within two years is the MGM Resorts International casino off Route 91 in Springfield. That project has touched off an unseemly border war with Connecticut.
The argument behind the MGM casino is that it will slow the flood of gambling money from Massachusetts and points north to the two granddaddies of New England casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut. Connecticut responded to this challenge by proposing a casino on Route 91 south of Springfield to be run jointly by Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, both of which are tribal casinos. MGM is suing Connecticut on the grounds that its exclusive arrangement with the two tribes is unconstitutional (MGM cannot operate in Connecticut).
According to news reports, MGM has sent emissaries to towns like East Hartford that may host this third Connecticut casino to stir up opposition. If true, what could MGM be telling residents? That a casino will lower their property values? Or increase crime? These are the same arguments that residents of Springfield and surrounding communities used in an unsuccessful effort to keep MGM away.
This is the tangled web woven by casino competition. Along with endless lawsuits — Boston is suing Wynn Resorts over the projected environmental impact of its proposed Everett casino and casino magnate Steve Wynn is suing foes for libel. The stakes are an increasingly diminishing piece of gambling revenue pie, while the negative impacts of a casino on a community remain the same. At this point, this is someone else's problem, but casino mania has proven to be contagious.