I've always had concerns about casinos or other high stakes gaming in Fall River. Mostly because I figure all the promises of jobs and money really means someone else is getting all the bread and we're getting tossed the crumbs.
There is always the talk about how many jobs it will bring but it always takes some effort to find out how many are long term and how many are short term like construction. Of course those who work in construction point out that those are good jobs and needed ones too. I don't argue the need or the importance of construction work, but I'm not going to sell the soul of my community for them. As for the rest of the jobs, I think it matters more to know how many full time and part time and the pay scale for each more than to keep hearing some impressive number. But that's just me.
Then there is the talk about how much revenue goes to Connecticut from Massachusetts patrons and how we need to stop it. The problem there is I'm not convinced this is a "Field of Dreams" thing that if you "build it they will come". If you build a casino here in Fall River it will have to compete with Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Twin Rivers, Newport Jai-Alai, the proposed Racinos and the whatever other sites wind up being built in Massachusetts. Can the region support that many venues? Now all the talk I've heard is about a "destination-style casino" to me this means to be successful it has to pull in people from outside our immediate area. Which means being in direct competition with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Can a Fall River casino compete with two very established venues? If the plan is for a more modest regional gambling facility, that means pretty much sucking the cash out of the pockets of local residents. Gee that seems like a bad thing and it's probably not very sustainable.
Now where to build this? Well it turns out that BioPark would fit the bill. Of course building a casino there would require some arm twisting to amend the agreement and heck may even thwart the plans we already have to develop the BioPark. Now this could be a real problem. From what I understand a casino could be up and running much more quickly than the realization of the BioPark but now we go back to the question of how many jobs and what kind of jobs. Let me put out some figures offered in the Herald News:
“I don’t want to turn them away if we can provide 2,000 jobs for people,” Menard, a Fall River Democrat, said of the casino resort prospects.
He (Flanagan) said there’s potential for 3,000 to 5,000 casino jobs in a range of sectors like construction, food and beverages, entertainment, security and professional fields.
Build-out of the park would bring 8,000 biomanufacturing and biotechnology jobs that would include a 1.5 million-square-foot campus, 10 multilevel office buildings and a parking garage, plans showed.
The first thing I find interesting is the gap between Menard's figure of 2,000 and the Mayor's figure of 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. Why such a difference? Maybe Joan is quoting a figure of long-term jobs while the Mayor is certainly including short-term construction jobs. (see his quote above) On the other hand the 8,000 jobs for the BioPark would seem to be the jobs after the park was fully operational. In other words 8,000 jobs not including the additional jobs for construction and possibly not including support jobs such as security, maintenance, janitorial, etc. Gee that's a big difference, even if it takes us longer to realize. No matter how you look at it the BioPark is going to bring a lot more jobs to our area. Even if it was only HALF as successful as the projected numbers it would bring 4,000 long term jobs PLUS construction jobs and POSSIBLY support jobs. Which is STILL more than what is being projected for the Casino.
We better be really careful before we shoot ourselves in the foot by grabbing on to what looks like a quick way to get some jobs and cash.
Then you have the problem that many believe Casinos bring about more social ills, basically exploiting those who can least afford it. There are some studies that show higher suicide rates and a question about the impact on crime. While it's true that many such venues have brought in a handsome amount of revenue, the question is at what cost?
We should not be running to embrace a Casino in Fall River. We should be approaching this cautiously, making sure that it's a good fit for our community and can fit in with our long term plans. If it doesn't fit with the BioPark we should look to put in somewhere else, and if it doesn't fit with our city, it should GO somewhere else. Let's hope the enthusiasm of our elected officials doesn't cloud their judgment.