The David and Goliath Battle for Bridgeport and CT’s doorsteps
by Anne Hughes
The Coalition Against Casino Expansion in CT represents
over 1 million residents, CT Association of Human Services, CT Catholic Conference, Episcopal Church of CT, CTUCC, CT League of Women Voters, the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center and Bridgeport Islamic Community Center, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, and other prominent faith groups and members hailing from all 169 towns.
On one of the last warm days before the first snowfall, more than 60 faith and civic leaders, legislators, Bridgeport city council members, press corps, and concerned citizens gathered at the Catholic Center in Bridgeport to lay out what is at stake over the proposal to expand casino gaming in Bridgeport.
CTUCC Legislative Advocate Michele Mudrick, the director of The Coalition Against Casino Expansion in CT (CACE), brought greetings, thanks and introductions for the keynote speakers and panelists for the gathering.
“Casinos do NOT lend to economic development… We need increased industry and jobs that are NOT funded by the gambling losses of its residents!” Mudrick said. She cited the ‘Why Casinos Matter’ Report from experts who study the issue. The report finds that casinos use highly developed, highly sophisticated technology designed for people to lose their money: the longer you play, the more you lose. While MGM is claiming it could give over 300 million per year of revenue to CT, ( if it were to give 25% of its slot revenue), CT residents would lose over 1.2 billion per year, crippling the micro-economies around those losses. The reality is, as Bob Steele, former Congressman, author and keynoter explained, ‘economies don’t improve when making people poorer’. After Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were established in CT, CT got hit with the highest debt per capita in the nation, and the rate of local embezzlement skyrocketed. The surrounding businesses were largely crippled, casino guests only spent their money ‘on campus’ at the casino restaurants, gas stations, entertainment, etc., not at the surrounding businesses, many of which have since closed.
Today’s regional resorts are different from earlier models of ‘entertainment gambling’, Bob Steele cautioned. They are highly addictive slots, catering to older women, seniors, people on fixed incomes, under or unemployed, middle and lower middle class members. The casinos are deliberately designed to addict its users, to ‘maximize what’s known as ‘time on device.' Bob reported that 35-50% of gambling revenue comes from problem/addicted gamblers, which amounts to a regressive tax on low wage earners. In cold numbers, the long-term costs outweigh the benefits, 3:1. He urged the audience to look at New Jersey, the state that spent hundreds of millions to prop up its casino industries, and saw one-third of them close anyway.
The Battle for Bridgeport continues and until now, commercial casino gambling has been illegal except on the Indian Reservations as defined by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes Compact with CT. Under this compact, if a casino is opened off-reservation, the tribes would no longer have to pay the State 25% of slot revenue. The doors would be open for commercial gambling in gas stations, truck stops, airports, convenience marts, at internet and ‘pop-up’ cafes, sports-gambling restaurants, indeed… at the doorstep of every neighborhood across CT.
Adam Osmond shared his poignant testimony of rising out of college to own and operate two Cumberland Farm convenience stores in New Britain, only to become devastatingly addicted to scratch card gambling. He described his descent from 2002-2008, culminating in buying $30,000 worth of lottery tickets a week, suffering a nervous breakdown, and printing tickets illegally to fuel his addiction. He described his ultimate arrest, loss of businesses, sentencing, and living in a rented unit with no heat and no hot water, separated from his wife and family. His story is brought to life through the movie, “Out of Luck
UCC Clergy Jen Gingras, Ed Cornell, Susan Townsley, Michael Ciba, Dale Rosenberger, Tim Hare, Kristen Provost, Bernard Wilson, Sara Smith, and others filled a table and determined to organize a ‘door-to-door faith knock’ field trip to the Legislative offices in Hartford in the coming months to visit the offices of each legislator. If CTUCC members or others would like to join this merry caravan to champion the citizen Davids, please contact Susan Townsley at SusanT@ctucc.org .
We will ally with economically desperate communities that think they must consider any offer of revenue, any promise of ‘luck’ or increase in public revenue, no matter how short-lived and no matter the long-term social costs.
Senator Tony Hwang described the shame and silence around the gambling addiction that shields the public from a clear-eyed view of the dangers and social costs. He also declared, “People Get the Government they deserve!” as he urged all constituents to become engaged in this issue to make their voices heard. He allowed that while people may think it doesn’t affect their personal life, or their family… the biggest challenge in this fight is raising awareness about the real likely costs and consequences of approving casino expansion in Bridgeport and elsewhere in the state. Eloquent representative Gemeem Davis from Bridgeport Generation Now described the anti-corruption committee founded in Bridgeport to pass an anti-corruption and transparency resolution, and circulated the petition around the room. She said we need to demand transparency from Bridgeport’s delegation and city leaders, transparency in the decision-making process, and hold leaders accountable, as to what and who is influencing those decisions. The only way to stop this well-funded corporate casino expansion is through unified, determined, wide-spread grass-roots resistance. This is the David and Goliath fight unfolding at our doorstep. And make no mistake, the affects of casino expansion will affect every doorstep in CT.
Former Congressman Bob Steele will be speaking about the social and economic impacts of the proposed Casino in Bridgeport on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 6 PM
at the East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone ( NRZ) meeting at 790 Central Ave in Bridgeport ( at the Bridgeport Ralphola Taylor Community Center/Center YMCA). All are welcome to attend this meeting. Any questions, please contact Wanda Simmons at 203-506-4561 or wrs0482gmail.com
or Michele Mudrick at 860-796-3822 or email@example.com
The next meeting of the Coalition Against Casino Expansion is Thurs., Jan. 25th, 2018
, from 12:30 - 2 PM at the Bridgeport Library North Branch, Community Rooms A-B. on 3455 Madison Ave. Please RSVP to Michele Mudrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you can attend this meeting or to get involved in helping oppose casino expansion in CT. In the meantime, call your legislators, talk to your neighbors, friends, and churches, and raise awareness about the hidden costs and seduction of casino expansion, and remind that there are better ways to bring economic growth, than through struggling neighbors losing their money through addictive-by-design Goliaths. Together we are David, and our collective voices can wield a devastating blow to the threat. We can find another way to grow.
For more information visit www.nomorecasinosinct.org
and like our Facebook pages NoCasinoInBridgeport
Anne Hughes, LMSW, is a CACE Coalition Member