Editorial: On casinos, it's best to listen to The Donald
The annual attempt to convince the Legislature to adopt casino gambling has become as certain as the changing of the seasons, so we fully expect the battle to continue. But Gov. Maggie Hassan, perennial casino proponent Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, and the rest of the easy-money crowd should slow down and take it from The Donald. The days when hosting a casino was a sure winner for municipalities and states are over.
Earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the outlook for America’s gaming industry from stable to negative. Moody’s cited two main reasons for the decline.
First, the proliferation of casinos means that the pot of gambling dollars is now divided many ways. Worse yet, there are scores of new casinos in the pipeline; 17 applicants have applied to open in New York state alone. Each opening dims the revenue picture for the casinos already in business. Second, debt-ridden consumers dope-slapped by the long recession have yet to return to their free-spending ways. They will continue, analysts say, to limit their spending primarily to essentials, a category that doesn’t include gaming.
The downturn in casino fortunes, save in Las Vegas, is well under way. One of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos closed in January and three others have announced that they would close in the fall unless new buyers are found. Among them is the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, which sent layoff notices to its 1,600 employees. Between them, the four casinos represent 8,000 jobs. Donald Trump, a frequent visitor to New Hampshire in election seasons, put gaming’s future more colorfully in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer than the number crunchers at Moody’s.
“What’s happening in Atlantic City is happening all over the country. The United States is becoming one big casino,” said The Donald. In outspoken Trump fashion, he went on to say: “Atlantic City is getting clobbered. Seventy-five percent of the casinos in Atlantic City are bankrupt or going through bankruptcy. The other 25 percent are on respirators. This is going to happen in (the Philadelphia area) and Pennsylvania, too, you watch. State governments think casino revenue is the panacea, but it’s not the panacea when everyone is doing it.”
Are you listening New Hampshire legislators?
The Moody’s report went on to say that while new casinos will create jobs in their host communities, those jobs may be offset by job losses elsewhere in the state. Opponents of expanded gambling in New Hampshire, including this newspaper, have been saying that for some time.
Existing restaurants will be unable to compete with the typically high-quality, low cost fare offered by casinos, which use gambling earnings to subsidize food costs. Existing entertainment venues won’t be able to compete against casinos for the top acts that keep the budgets of places like the Capitol Center for the Arts in the black. Money lost in casinos by New Hampshire residents is money that won’t be spent in local stores and restaurants. Local economies that don’t host a casino or share in gambling revenues will suffer.
In 2011, the governor of Massachusetts signed legislation that authorizes the opening of three casinos and one slots parlor. Massachusetts residents will vote on whether to repeal the law authorizing casinos in November. Polls suggest the pro-casino vote will be overwhelming, but those casinos, let alone any approved later by the state of New Hampshire, will open in a New England market that gambling analysts say is already oversaturated.
Odds are that it won’t be long before casino owners warn states that they’ll close and throw people out of work unless they can keep a bigger share of the take.
Voters should have just two words for candidates who claim that casinos are the answer to New Hampshire’s financial problems: “You’re fired!”