The campaign to have voters approve a casino in Maine is heating up. We are being bombarded with ads and the usual collection of lawn signs and bumper stickers. I hope voters reject the proposal and would like to explain part of the reason for my personal opposition.
The proposal allows only one group to build a casino. I believe the proposed casino monopoly is fundamentally unfair. But there are other reasons to dislike the proposal to allow a casino.
There is great effort being expended to mask the casino as economic development. The promise of an economic boost to the state of Maine is an empty one. I remain unconvinced that the benefits will outweigh the social and economic costs. A close analysis suggests that most of the promised jobs are mere speculation and the increased burden of having a casino may be a further drag on the economy. A casino in Sanford will not create jobs in Greenville, Dexter or in Milo, yet they promise 10,000 new jobs statewide. But jobs are not the only measure of economic impact. Others have had time and opportunity to see the results. A report by Mayor Wesley J. Johnson, Sr; Town of Ledyard, CT, states that " in 2000/01, quantifiable costs to the Town of Ledyard resulting from hosting Foxwoods Casino total $2,221,976.00". Nearby North Stonington claims their total is $606,070.00. First Selectman Nicholas Mullane from North Stonington, Connecticut, said of Foxwoods, "A porn shop, more drunken drivers, traffic jams and lower property values are among the negative impacts on North Stonington. Foxwoods has devastated our small town. And the town of Preston, CT reports an annual additional cost of $754,500.00. An independent study (by Douglas Muir, PhD, a statistical analyst with 30-years of experience with the federal government) of the proposed Tribal casino for Southern Maine shows that it would cost Maine taxpayers more than $165 million a year in social and economic costs. That is far more than what the proponents claim the casino will generate in revenues for the state. Simply put, the costs appear to be greater than the potential economic benefits.
People should be mindful that the current proposal we will be voting on prohibits us from altering or rescinding the agreement for 20 years without permission of the tribes.
If there were evidence to think that a casino would benefit other local businesses, one would expect organizations such as the Maine Restaurant Association to be supportive. But they have joined the Maine Tourism Association in voicing opposition to the casino proposal.
It is unfortunate that the casino question is distracting us from addressing the real problems that are stifling Maine's economy. Our economy is not suffering from a lack of casinos. It is suffering from excessive government spending, high taxes, overegulation and high energy costs. We need to be focused on tackling these matters and offering solutions, not merely pinning our hopes on schemes that raise more questions than answers. That alone will bring long lasting economic development to the state.
Paul Davis lives in Sangerville and represents District 8 in the Maine Senate.