Episcopal bishop of western Mass. opposes casinos
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts is speaking out against proposed casinos in the region, saying they would disproportionately affect the poor, provide few economic benefits and bring increased crime.
“I was neutral on the issue of gambling until all these proposals for casinos and slot parlors started coming forward,” Bishop Douglas Fisher told the Telegram & Gazette (http://bit.ly/14nO2is ) for a story published Monday. “Looking into the matter further, I could see how these particular businesses could hurt our poor.”
Gambling facilities have been proposed for Springfield, Worcester, Leominster, Millbury, Milford, Brimfield, West Springfield and Palmer, all within the diocese. One proposal was made for an area of Springfield just blocks from the diocese’s mother church, Christ Church Cathedral.
Under state gambling law, no more than one casino may be built in a geographic region.
Fisher, who has led the diocese that stretches from Worcester County to the Berkshires since June 2012, has argued in his sermons and on his blog against gambling complexes, and along with two other diocesan officials, has put together an essay examining how gambling harms the poor.
In the essay, the bishop and his fellow authors said that, on average, card dealers earn $15,810 annually. Families with that income, the essayists said, are eligible for food stamps, fuel assistance, utility shut-off protection, MassHealth insurance and Section 8 housing vouchers.
Casinos are a tax on the poor that create mostly low-paying jobs, with no real health benefits, and with no economic spin-off, Fisher said. They also bring increased crime, including prostitution and drugs, he said.
“People who gamble stay in the casino. They don’t go outside the facility to shop or eat,” Fisher said. “Gambling facilities are an economic vacuum, not an economic engine.”
Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com