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Mass. Spending Up At New England Casinos, Study Says

A new study shows that despite a sagging economy, spending by Massachusetts residents at gambling destinations in other New England states increased by 5.3 percent last year.

The study (PDF), completed by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, comes as the state's House of Representatives gets set to debate legislation to allow casino gambling in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts residents spent $730.6 million at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resort casinos in Connecticut in 2009 — up from $709 million spent in 2008. At racinos in Rhode Island, Massachusetts residents increased spending $28 million to $237 million, and spending was up $107,000 at Maine's Hollywood Slots racino, to a total of $709,136.

The study found that spending by Massachusetts residents translated to $230 million in tax revenues for Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine coffers — an increase of $19 million from 2008. The study also found that since 1992, Massachusetts residents have spent $12 billion at New England gambling destinations, generating an estimated $4.3 billion in tax revenues for Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine.

The study was based on the counting of car license plates, a methodology Kathleen Conley Norbut, president of United to Stop the Slots in Massachusetts, says is both biased and flawed.

"Much has been written by economists and experts in the field to say that a license plate does not translate into the amount of revenues that are being spent," Norbut said. "And I think also, very importantly... the timing of the report was on a long holiday weekend, so naturally the numbers of patrons would be increased."

Earlier this month, Mass. Speaker Robert DeLeo unveiled a plan to allow casino gambling in the state, and ndicated lawmakers would take the issue up in late March or early April, although no firm date for debate has been announced.

This program aired on March 29, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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