Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gambling is Coming to Boston. What Does It Mean for the Arts?

Rendering of one of the casino proposals for outside Boston.

This is an important date in the future of the Bay State's cultural landscape.

 Today is the deadline for casino developers to submit proposals for the three possible casino development licenses in Massachusetts.

Gambling is coming.

What does it mean for the culture makers and performance artists of the Commonwealth?

Almost on cue, Chris Jones has written a column in the Chicago Tribune addressing this very topic. Chicago faces a similar situation as the Hub, a large gaming facility is on the very near horizon.

 Jones suggests a proactive approach:
Any Chicago casino must, first and foremost, not be seen as a Chicago casino at all. Instead, it should be viewed as a major new cultural hub, which happens to have a little gambling going on alongside its many other attractions. And that won't happen unless Chicago's creative professionals — its architects, entertainment executives, chefs, artists, actors, music promoters, cultural officials — hold their noses and overcome, as did the former street performers of the Cirque du Soleil more than two decades ago, whatever qualms they may have about becoming involved with gambling, which will arrive with or without them. They must grab hold of this civic debate right now, before the chance is lost for good.
The main energy of a Chicago casino should have everything to do with experiencing architecture, watching spectacular shows, eating at world-class restaurants, interacting with thrilling technological art and the like, and as little as possible to do with gambling.
Is this an approach for Boston or any of the other possible casino locations? Could ArtsEmerson have a stage over at the old Suffolk Downs?

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