University of Massachusetts sophomore and Media Giraffe Project intern Matt Cadwallader wrote this blog observation after helping to videotape the Tues., March 11, 2008 gambling-issues forum at Quinnipiac University for the New England News Forum. VIDEO / NEWS STORY
The gambling forum at Quinnipiac University on Tuesday evening came off as a fascinating preview of all the issues Massachusetts, if it goes through with the Patrick administration's proposal to build three new casinos in the state, should brace itself for in the coming years. The diverse set of panelists allowed the audience a sneak-peak into the problems now affecting Connecticut's gaming facilities. The discussion ranged from the tremendous effect of casinos on state coffers as well as the economy as a whole to a passionate exchange over the sovereignty of Native American reservations.
The question over the limits of Native American tribe sovereignty seemed to be at the heart of most of the debate. Recently, legislation has been proposed in the Connecticut state house that would ban smoking in all casinos. While many see the measure as an appropriate one, David Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General, seemed to suggest that going about it through legislation may not be wise, as it calls in to question the distinction over the sovereign rights of the Mashantucket-Pequot (who operate Foxwoods) and the Mohegan (who operate Mohegan Sun) tribes. Blumenthal noted that the agreement between the state and the tribes has thus far been very successful in mediating any problems between the two.
A spokesman for the Mashantucket-Pequot tribe was happy to provide the audience a wealth of statistical economic information, including the creation of thousands of jobs and the state of Connecticut's 25% cut of all profits (a figure that amounts to over $450 million). It was also worth noting that the tribe spends $3 million annually on problem-gambling programs, where the state had spent very little.
How states must work to address the issue of gambling addiction was another central topic of discussion as Marvin Steinberg of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling (who co-sponsored the forum), was vocal in his skepticism over Massachusetts' plan to invest $50 million each year to combat problem gambling. Citing past proclamations of mass-investment in anti-addiction programs from states such as Nevada, Steinberg felt that the money would inevitably be cut back soon after its inception.
The audience was particularly involved in the discussion on this issue, with one woman voicing her concern over the lack of study, or monies for appropriate studies, on the subject.