Lyons Delivers Maiden Speech on State Gaming Debate

The following was submitted by the office of State Rep. Jim Lyons.

State Rep. Jim Lyons delivered his maiden address to the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon. Lyons expressed his opposition to the pending casino gambling legislation. Here is the full text of that speech:

"Within the bill to institutionalize casino gambling in Massachusetts lies a provision that bans smoking tobacco products in casinos. The betting parlor must present a pristine smoke free environment. This presents a jarring note, a clanging sound, in a bill that seeks to undo centuries of history, that seeks to remove the prohibition, endorsed by generations, against state sanctioned casino gambling.

For how many decades have we been striving to discourage the individual habit of smoking? The same bill that acknowledges our societal commitment to discourage the smoking habit- that very same bill- opens the door to the habit of gambling in casinos. This bill in effect turns our cultural history on its head. In everyday conversation, we say ‘doing a 180.’

We need not make any ethical or moral judgments about gambling. The question before us is not whether gambling is right or wrong at all times and in all places. The question today is about casino gambling in Massachusetts.

This bill before us proposes a fundamental change in the character of this state—of this great Commonwealth. If we approve this bill, we are turning our backs on our history. We are moving our state irrevocably in a different direction. We are taking a 180 degree turn.

The important question is: Are we turning in a better direction? In a stronger direction? In a direction that, decades from now, the heirs to this Commonwealth will be proud to say: ‘It was this legislature- it was this generation- that delivered slot parlors and gambling casinos into our state.'

Now I know that there are studies upon studies projecting job growth, revenues, and development. And- Who knows?- maybe some of these studies will prove reasonably accurate. Or maybe not. One place we know for certain that jobs will be added is to the new state bureaucracy overseeing the gambling venues. We are told that there will be at least five well-compensated commissioners added to guide this new bureaucracy.

We also know that there will be jobs created by revenue that is set aside for the expressed purpose of combating compulsive gambling. I do not believe that these are jobs that any of us can feel proud about creating.

We know that the growth of gambling will ensnare some vulnerable persons and profoundly wound their families. We don’t know precisely who they are, or how many there will be, or when they will be hurt. We do know that they will not come from the most privileged, the most affluent, or the highest income segments of society. Yes, we do know that families who cannot afford to be harmed will be harmed. We are so certain of it that we are setting aside revenue for addiction counseling to mitigate this pain.

And yet, these cost/benefit questions are not sufficient to suppress casino gambling fervor, or maybe I should say casino gambling fever, in Massachusetts.

So I draw your attention back to the questions each of us must ask ourselves: Do we want to be part of the legislature that will be remembered for one thing and one thing only? Make no mistake: We will forever be the legislature that brought casino gambling to Massachusetts. The casino gambling legislature. That will be our legacy. That will be etched in our history. That will be engraved on our monuments.

We are linked together, one with other fellow citizens. This is the obligation we mutually accept as citizens in this place and at this time. And we are also linked together across time with those who came before us, with those who worked and sacrificed for so many generations to build this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Despite the want and deprivation of the Great Depression, they did not succumb to the temptation of building gambling parlors. Despite the pain and peril of great wars, they did not need gambling parlors to take them away from their hard realities,  from nights and days filled with difficulties. Can we truthfully say that our want is greater than theirs? Do we really believe that we are in greater need of easy diversions than they were? Yet, they held course. They held steady. They worked to create the future that we enjoy.

And what will those who come after us say? Will they say that like our parents and grandparents, we rolled up our sleeves to build a brighter, stronger future? Or will they say that we left them places for gaming, places for betting, and places for gambling? Will they say of us that we gambled their future away, rather than built it?

Let us step back from this change, from this 180 degree turn. Let us consider together our commitment to our fellow citizens, and let us weigh even more our generational obligations. Let us not forever alter the social fabric of this Commonwealth for the primary purpose of generating revenue. Let us determine that profound changes of this nature shall be adopted for the higher purpose of improving, of uplifting, of elevating the lives and futures of the Citizens of Massachusetts.

With solemn respect and deep appreciation for those who came before us, and with certain knowledge that it is within our grasp to leave something better to those who come after us, I urge a no vote on the proposition at hand."


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