Gambling on the Boston Harbor Islands

Here we go again.

Another plan floated to build a casino on the Boston Harbor Islands.

With Massachusetts recently passing legislation legalizing the establishment of casinos, attention has turned to where those casinos will be located. On an appearance on 96.9 WTKK radio, the new head of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was asked about Peddocks Island as one possible site for a casino in the Boston area. The host mentioned that it sounded like a good idea. Please.

I can’t imagine this happening. First of all, a casino in a national park area is just wrong. Secondly, are people aware that Peddocks Island is actually, um, surrounded by water? You can’t exactly drive a party bus over to Peddocks, and there’s not enough room for the square miles of handicapped parking you’d need, given the senior-leaning demographics of casinos. No one looking for the quick fix of slots and card tables is going to be waiting for a ferry.

However, this is not the first time someone has suggested putting a casino out on the islands. Donald Trump flirted briefly with the idea of building one on Long Island a few decades ago. Some histories of the islands mention that there were casinos on Spectacle Island in the 1850s– I tried hard to track down proof of this and came up empty. We do know that there was definitely gambling on Spectacle Island (just as the islands were venues for nefarious activities such as opium parties, rumrunning, and bare-knuckled boxing). One Sunday in 1856 police arrested a party of about 25 men on charges of gambling after they disembarked at Long Wharf after a boat trip to Spectacle Island. The authorities seized a roulette table, cards, and dice. Not sure about you, but I’ve never been to a casino that’s BYOR (bring your own roulette table) However, just because there was gambling doesn’t mean there was a casino. (If anyone has historical accounts of an honest-to-goodness casino out on the islands, please let me know.)

Let’s keep the casinos off the Boston Harbor Islands. Follow history. If you want to bet out on the islands, bring your own deck of cards.

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