Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Apr
  • 18

Bishop, pastors oppose slots plan

Posted By April 18, 2013 | 3:02 pm | Lead Story #1, Local

By William T. Clew

Bishop McManus and three pastors of downtown parishes have expressed opposition to a proposed slots parlor in the city’s Green Island section.

The three pastors, Msgr. Francis J. Scollen of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s parishes; Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, rector of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, and Father John F. Madden of St. John’s Parish, signed a letter asking the Worcester City Council and city administration to reject a proposal to build a slots parlor at the former Wyman-Gordon site. They said that “the damage that any such slots parlor will have on those most vulnerable by reason of addiction, poverty, illness or youth is an unmitigated evil.”

Bishop McManus said he endorses the letter. He said there is a lot of evidence that a slots parlor can cause a host of problems downtown, leaving churches and other non-profits to pick up the social pieces. People sometimes use their paychecks for gambling, then have no money for food or to pay bills.

Rush Street Gaming of Chicago has proposed the slots parlor at the Wyman-Gordon property on Madison Street near Kelley Square.

If the City Council authorizes City Manager Michael V. O’Brien to negotiate a host community agreement with Rush Street Gaming, a city-wide referendum would be held. The City Council is scheduled to take up the question April 23.

Under Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulations, a referendum election on the gaming question must be scheduled no less than 60 days and not more than 90 days after the signing of the community host agreement by the city manager. This means if the city wanted to have the issue voted on the same day as the June 25 Senate election, the city manager would have to have a signed host agreement by April 26.

The pastors said in their letter that they “minister to the heart of Worcester’s downtown and the people who live and work there. Every day we seek to address the challenges faced by the least among us, ministering directly to those struggling with poverty, illness and addiction. We not only preach this work on Sundays, but live it daily through feeding the hungry, ministering to those with addictions and opening our doors to those most in need of our love and support.”

They said they were troubled by “the push of city leadership to open negotiations for the slots parlors. This is particularly troubling as there has been real progress made in the last decade in the city and in Green Island in particular.”

They said gambling is linked to an “increase in suicide, child and spousal abuse and personal bankruptcy. Other casino sites have attracted alcohol problems, drugs, prostitution and other evils. Casinos have a well-documented detrimental effect on small businesses in their host communities, pulling business away from them and into the casinos, thus further tearing apart the fabric of our community.

“There is no way to mitigate the damage this will do to our community. The damage that any such slots parlor will have on those most vulnerable by reason of addiction, poverty, illness, youth, is an unmitigated evil. St. Paul enjoins us to ‘abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.’ (Romans 12:9).

“The good that is done by our parishes and others of good will in our community, Christian or not, will be profoundly challenged by this proposal. We thus call upon the Worcester City Council and the city administration to reject this proposal, and reject it now.”

Msgr. Scollen and Father Madden and Deacon Colin M. J. Novick, of St. Paul Cathedral, also are members of a newly formed group called Vote No Slots. Deacon Novick is a committee co-chair. Other co-chairs are Kathleen Pagano and Edward Moynihan. According to a press release, Vote No Slots is registered as a ballot question committee and opposes the slots parlor “for many reasons.”

In a statement Wednesday, Deacon Novick said the slots parlor is “a predatory industry that takes advantage of those most at risk and takes local dollars that would go to local businesses, damaging our local economy and bringing about a net loss of jobs in our community. This disruption is unhealthy for all who live in Worcester.”

The committee, which held a rally Monday in front of City Hall, claims that a slots parlor would bring low-end service jobs with little opportunity for advancement, that the slots parlor would hurt neighborhood businesses and that two proposed resort casinos within 50 miles of Worcester, if they are built, would attract gamblers and cause the slots parlor to fail, leaving a large empty building that would be difficult to develop.