Research Bureau Says Worcester Slot Parlor Would Do More Harm Than Good
Friday, March 22, 2013
"We really looked at the pros and cons and concluded that casino gambling in general was something of a disaster," said Roberta Schaefer, president and CEO of the Research Bureau, of the 2007 report "Casino Gambling in Worcester: The Case For and Against."
"And five years later we're concluding the same thing."
Slot parlors vs. casinos
The Research Bureau's new report, "Should Worcester Welcome a Slot-Machine Casino?", follows the announcement last week that Massachusetts Gaming & Entertainment, LLC, one of four applicants for the sole slot parlor license under the state's new gaming law, would be seeking to locate its proposed facility in the Commonwealth's second-largest city.
Mass Gaming, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, which operates urban casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa. as well as Des Plaines, Ill., could bring over $200 million in local investment and the creation of close to 600 jobs in the form of a slot parlor and hotel to the Wyman-Gordon property off of Southbridge St., which is seen as the most likely potential site.
But Schaefer said the positive economic impacts of such a gaming facility, which she argues will be minor, are still greatly outweighed by the negative impacts on the City as a whole, especially with advances in modern day electronic slots.
"When I heard that we were being considered for a slot parlor, thought it was probably the least harmful," she said. "Low and behold, it turns out to be the most harmful because it is so addictive."
Electronic slots designed for addiction
Today's electronic slots, the research found, are designed to maximize "time on device" or TOD, and the ability to use credit cards instead of cash makes it that much easier for gamblers to get sucked in, the Research Bureau said.
According to Schüll's research, "video gambling devices," as the new electronic slots are called, lead to players becoming addicted three to four times faster than gamers engaged in other types of gambling.
And when it comes to urban gaming facilities, nearby residents are often the biggest customers. That the most likely site for the proposed slot parlor is adjacent to some of Worcester's poorest neighborhoods and not far from the Downtown area the City is currently seeking to revive could potentially be a recipe for disaster.
"The potentially disastrous effects of making the new slot machines easily accessible to urban residents can be seen most graphically in Las Vegas, which has the highest rate of suicides in the nation (twice the national average), a significant number of which are local residents, as well as exceptionally high rates of poverty, crime, bankruptcy, automobile accidents, child abuse, and pathological addictions of various kinds," the Research Bureau said.
Diverging visions for Worcester
While City Manager Michael O'Brien has been clear that any proposal for a gaming facility in Worcester would have to fit with the City's larger economic development plans, such as the Theatre District, Schaefer doubted that a slot parlor could fit with the vision of Worcester that officials are attempting to further.
"How is this beneficial to anything that the city is trying to do at this point?" she said. "The whole idea is keeping them there as long as possible. They're not going to go out from there and then go to the Hanover Theatre or Mechanics Hall."
With the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences planning a downtown expansion and the inaugural season of iceskating on the Worcester Common Oval helping to encourage families to be out and about in Worcester's downtown, Schaefer said a slot parlor on the edge of the district seems incompatible.
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