Coronavirus

Massachusetts Abandons Its Puzzling Public Health Distinction Between Casinos and Video Arcades

A week after being sued over his arbitrary COVID-19 policy, Gov. Charlie Baker says he will allow arcades to reopen.

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A week after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was sued in federal court for keeping video arcades closed as a COVID-19 hazard while allowing casinos to reopen, he has abandoned that arbitrary distinction. Baker announced today that he will let arcades reopen next week. His explanation illustrates how blithely politicians invoke public health to justify capricious rules that wipe out people's livelihoods.

Attorney Marc Randazza filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Gideon Coltof, who owns Bit Bar, a restaurant-arcade in Salem. Randazza argued that Baker's policy, which distinguished between two kinds of businesses that feature electronic games even though they pose similar risks of virus transmission, imposed an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech and violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

Baker originally included arcades in the list of businesses that were allowed to reopen in early July. But he reversed course without explanation, offering nothing but boilerplate about "the latest science" and "input from public health experts." Now he has flip-flopped again, and his reasoning remains hazy.

"Arcades have been open for a while in some of the states surrounding us, and we spend a lot of time talking to our colleagues in those states," Baker said. "And they basically said that with capacity limitations, [physical distancing] rules, hand sanitizer, and all the rest, that they've been able to be open safely. And we felt based on the data we got from our colleagues in other states that that was enough to move forward."

That explanation raises the question of why those neighboring states saw fit to let arcades operate when Baker thought it was too risky, even with precautions like the ones he mentioned. What sort of "science" informed Baker's conclusion that video games played for fun were inherently more dangerous as disease vectors than video games played for the chance to win money?

Joey Slawinski, operations manager of Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, has an explanation, but it is not exactly scientific. "We believe it is due to the revenue generated by the casinos to the state," he told Boston.com.

Coltof, who met repeatedly with state officials in an effort to resolve the issue before filing his lawsuit, did not hear about the sudden reversal until Baker made his announcement. "I'm certain our lawsuit had something to do with it," he said. "The state has been immovable on this for months. As of August 31, all we heard was, 'We're not changing, we're not moving, we're doing nothing.' And then we filed our lawsuit last week. It was served to the Governor on Tuesday, and two days later he's out in front of the microphones. Wow."

Several state legislators also criticized Baker's policy and sought to intercede on behalf of arcade owners. But Baker supposedly had his reasons for keeping arcades closed, although he has yet to elucidate them. Ruling by executive fiat means never having to explain yourself, let alone say you're sorry.

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  1. Is there a difference between a brothel and a massage parlor? Asking for a friend…

    1. If the brothel paid 100x more taxes to the state than the massage parlor, one would be open with ‘social distancing’ and the other would be shut down.

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    2. Sure. In a brothel, you know exactly what services are offered. In a massage parlor, you’re not as sure.

    3. Happy endings to not count. I am sure of that much.

  2. Just remember if it’s not retarded and arbitrary it’s not progressive

    1. there’s a few on the right acting like petty children. And as we know. 10% of right leaning equals 90% of progressive.

      1. That’s because progressive->conservative isn’t a straight continuum, it’s actually a circle. Go far enough to the right and you end up on the far left and vice versa.

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  3. In either an arcade or a casino you’re walking out with less money. Part of that goes to the state to fund far left pogroms.

    My guess is he worked a deal to extract more bribe money from arcade owners. Casino owners already knew the score.

    1. Not unlike liquor stores. Around here the State even owns them all and prohibits competition. With elections coming up later in the year, governors really needed to keep spending revenue.

      1. If democrats or republicans had prevented beer sales here in Missouri during the plan-demic, we might be looking at the first state ever to be controlled by a 3rd party.

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  5. If I was the arcade owner, I never would have closed. This is America, and in America, govenors don’t get to pass laws- the legislature does. I’ve tried explaining this to people here in CO, where govenor idiot issued a state-wide mask mandate. People say “but it’s the law that you have to wear one!”, whereupon the poor sap is now submitted to a five minute lecture on the difference between a “law” and an unconstitutional “edict”. Fuck these people. We were told it was gonna be two weeks to get the curve down- we’re now in the 6th month of bullshit shutdowns, capacity restrictions, mask mandates, etc. They didn’t just shift the goalposts- they put ’em on a rocket and blasted them off towards Alpha Centuri.

    1. If you were an arcade owner in Denver, you would have been closed whether you chose to close or not. Polis is a tyrant and pretty high on the scale.

    2. Well said. The part that really destroys me is that no one is outraged. 95% of people seem genuinely eager for more unaccountable authoritarianism.

    3. “If I was the arcade owner, I never would have closed.”

      Sorry, but you’d have no choice. You and others claim it’s not a “law”; totally irrelevant.
      Whatever you call it, it is enforced at the end of a gun. Push back far enough and you WILL be shot.

    4. Now go one step farther and ask yourself why you follow any law passed by a legislature. Is it your duty to obey because the edict was created by several people rather than one person?

      1. The central conceit of democracy is that there is some element of wisdom in a large group, that where the self-interest of the one fails to provide for the good of the many the self-interest of the many will more frequently result in the good of the many.

        That’s the idea anyway.

  6. Is it really puzzling?

    The distinction is clear – one type of business brings in a lot of revenue to the state and is effectively under state control, being willing to submit to any and all diktats.

    The other is an arcade.

  7. “…His explanation illustrates how blithely politicians invoke public health to justify capricious rules that wipe out people’s livelihoods…”

    Moonbeam, in his entire life, had one paying job; trading on his name he was a DJ in Oakland between slopping at the public trough.
    Prior to that, as governor, he ran the logging industry out of CA based on the danger to a local population of a wide-spread owl species, and thereby relinquished ‘free’ (to the taxpayer) forest management, making sure the current wild fires were pretty much guaranteed.
    During the same time, he did nothing to increase CA’s water storage, as the population doubled between his earlier and later stints at the “governor” trough.
    Further, he signed, without comment, the Dills Act, guaranteeing the huge un-funded obligations in retirement benefits.
    He has been replaced by Newsom whose acquaintance with business is limited to part ownership in a 2-location restaurant ‘chain’; you can bet he’s never read a quarterly report.
    The entire lot of them seem to think business is conducted thus:
    1) Get business license.
    2) Something.
    3) Put profits in the bank.
    They don’t know, they don’t care, and they certainly have no interest in finding out how ignorant they are.

  8. I’m just amazed video arcades still exist in MA – enough for the industry to file a lawsuit.

    Are we talking about a video arcade with Pac Man and Street Fighter game?

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  11. I don’t think many realize how much of an authoritarian state Massachusetts is. The Bat Coof restrictions in place put all other states to shame with the possible exception of NY. But even before the Coof, it was bad. This is the state that banned all vaping products by executive fiat overnight, destroying many livelihoods without giving it a second thought. The really bad part of it is that the people who live there mysteriously have no idea how bad it is, even though they are next to New Hampshire and view that state as the wild west. It’s bizarre.

  12. Thank you master thank you! The beatings will continue until moral improves.

  13. Video arcades, that’s where your kids go when they get bored of posting pictures of their junk on the intrernet.

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  15. Why? Casinos have money, arcades don’t.

    Money talks, bullshit walks.

  16. The only arcades I know of still around here are those that cater to adults or young adults. They have food and a bar.

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