Looks like the Ontario government isn’t the only one betting on the roulette wheel to bail out government coffers. According to the Economist, the need for revenue has cash-strapped state and local governments in the US scrapping restrictions on alcohol sales, gambling and even fire works! Last year Massachusetts became the 24th US state to allow casinos. Ohio opened up restrictions in 2009 and Maryland did in 2008. Looking to cash in, Maine has just issued its first casino license as well. We might find some comfort in this if it reflected the puritanical thinking frequently in evidence in the US – particularly on the far right. But this is a direct result of the fiscal pressure stemming from the 2008 financial meltdown.
Massachusetts is hoping that the three casinos built there could deliver $400m a year plus $300m in initial licensing fees. And the US isn’t the only country gambling on casinos to provide economic rescue. In Spain they are counting on a jobs bonanza from a giant gambling resort slated for either Madrid or Barcelona.
Now Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is promising similar dividends here in Toronto. There is no question that our dependence on the US has had an impact in this country, particularly in Ontario where the economy depends on industry and manufacturing. Could the solution to our woes also be similar to those being introduced in the US? In the expansion of the gaming system? Seems like a false economy. We aren’t talking productivity gains here but just recycling dollars with the government picking up the greatest percentage. So much for consumers spending our way out of recession. With everyone getting into the same business, it isn’t likely that new revenues come through tourism. Looks to me like we are in danger of simply moving dollars from one pocket (ours) to the government’s. The way I read it, this means fewer discretionary dollars available for consumption of real goods.
Still, there is hope. Latest reports suggest that, while the US recovery is still weak and unexciting, it is real enough. Maybe it will kick into high gear and save us from ourselves. Let’s gamble on it anyway!