Episode: Casino Capital

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Casino Capital

Casino gambling makes an odd fit with old bean-and-codfish Boston, even with Boston today: the best big college town in the country, the leading edge of genomic medicine, the home address of sports champions and Red Sox Nation. And now it’s the home of Encore Boston Harbor, in the Steve Wynn chain of casino resorts. It’s an odd fit with the whole country, when you think about it: the licensed elevation of what used to be forbidden, isolated, mob-ridden.

We talked to the novelist Joshua Cohen to try to get a handle on all this. Cohen is from Atlantic City, and he spoke to us from that industry town about growing up among the casinos. He’s full of startling, tragic, funny insights into the casino business, an industry that’s increasingly moving into American cities beyond Vegas and Cohen’s hometown.

Joshua Cohen. Credit: Marion Ettlinger.

The first full-service gambling palace has been built in Boston, that old American cultural capital. It’s a giant leap for the very idea of gambling, where, as George Bernard Shaw said, “the many must lose in order that the few may win.” It’s not just a casino but a “world above,” it advertises: 600 5-star hotel rooms over thousands of card games and slot machines.  It’s the biggest single private development in 400 years of Massachusetts; with $77 million tossed in to clean up a stinking old Monsanto chemical dump. This hour we’re sharing the welcome we got at Encore Boston Harbor, and then the puzzlement about where it leads.  

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