BOSTON (CBS) – The state Gaming Commission has released a survey of the people playing the slots at the Plainridge Park Casino, and while the official spin celebrates the recapturing of gambling money that used to flow out of state, a dive into the details reveals a more disturbing picture.
Seventy-eight percent of the patrons at Plainridge were from Massachusetts, while less than 20 percent came from out of state. This shows how little appeal the slots parlor has to players in nearby Rhode Island and Connecticut, with comparable or superior gambling opportunities in their home states.
Will the so-called “destination” casinos in Springfield and Everett do better? We’ll see.
Speaking of competition, almost 90 percent of Plainridge patrons said they had visited out-of-state casinos in the past year. Do we really think our out-of-state won’t do their best to lure Massachusetts bettors away?
Consider the makeup of the Plainridge crowd, mostly older, lower-middle-class people seemingly intent on gambling with little interest in anything else. Only 60 percent bought food or drinks at the slot parlor; 67 percent of them didn’t do anything off-site, contrary to the spin that these gambling halls spur economic activity outside their walls.
Also troubling – the 30 percent who said they wouldn’t have gambled elsewhere if Plainridge hadn’t opened, and the fact that interaction with the state’s Game Sense program to help deter compulsive gambling was minimal.
Plainridge is generating badly-needed revenue to the state that we didn’t have before – for now. That’s the good news.
The bad news is it’s far from clear our belated venture into the gambling business is going to be worth the risks it entails.