Our politicians and their corporate overlords, in their infinite chase for money, are trying to perpetrate another scam on the good people of Connecticut – an MGM Resorts International casino in Bridgeport Harbor. They will promise jobs, entertainment and tax revenues. They will bring more traffic, Amtrak delays along with despair, personal bankruptcies, embezzlement, domestic violence and suicides.
MGM is willing to ante up $675 million of its own money to create a splendid 300-room hotel, 100,000 square feet of gaming tables and slots, a gorgeous 900-foot boardwalk, 30,000 square feet of retail space and a classy marina where the rich and famous can park their yachts.
New Yorkers will bogie up Amtrak, Route 95 and the Merritt Parkway, blow wads of cash and provide an estimated $300 million in annual tax revenues to Bridgeport and the state. Two thousand direct jobs will be created and another 4,000 to 5,000 jobs for those involved in this paradise’s construction. There will be concerts, glamour and grandeur. Sounds like a no-brainer.
But there is a dark side. First of all, it you think Route 95 is a parking lot now, wait until this monstrosity is up and going. You will be able to finish Ayn Rand’s talking book Atlas Shrugged in a single commute! And those of you who commute on Amtrak will lose weight as you sweat profusely when packed like sardines in trains with failing air conditioning. That is unless the Connecticut taxpayers pony up billions of dollars in infrastructure updates to accommodate the increased traffic.
Slots, roulette, progressive bingo, keno, pai gow (Chinese for sucker) poker and craps all have one thing in common – in the long run, you can’t win. If you could, the casino wouldn’t exist. Card counters can beat blackjack, but our corrupt judges have ruled that casinos have the right to eject them. In fact, the odds of beating blackjack after playing for four hours are so slim, that many casinos have a policy of throwing out someone who is still ahead after this time period.
Most people realize this and come to the casinos to lose a few bucks, have a nice meal and see a show. Perfectly harmless. Right?
No it is not. I have had family members of two of my patients commit suicide after losing large amounts of money at Foxwoods. One blew his brains out in the casino parking lot. Smooth talking corporate casino spokespersons will wax eloquently about “responsible gaming” (notice how they don’t use the word gambling) and the need for “addiction treatment” for problem gamblers; but they couldn’t care less.
Casinos create loyalty cards (at Foxwoods they are called Wampum cards) that enable gamblers to receive what are called “comps” – free meals, rooms and gifts. By analyzing the data gleaned from these loyalty cards, the casinos are able to prey on three groups – the poor, the lonely and the addicted – who generate the most profits. They will even send limos to their houses as long as their credit card swipes.
There are those who will argue the human beings like to gamble, so the state may as well profit from it. And they have a point. But that does not mean that we should prey on the least of our brethren and enable it.
Casinos create what the nuns call “the occasion of sin.” Connecticut already preys on our poor, lonely and addicted with lotto and two other casinos. This casino will not help Bridgeport any more than Foxwoods helped eastern Connecticut, or the bankrupt casinos littering Atlantic City’s skyline improved the lot of its inhabitants.
Hopefully politicians from both sides of the aisles will have the courage to stand up to MGM when they start greasing the palms of our political class.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.