R. J. Reynolds and the $23.6 billion verdict
8 months ago
Steve Wynn’s political contributions are part of the backdrop to his effort to build the Everett casino.
Corporations have quietly been opening hundreds of casino cafes in neighborhoods across the state over the past several months. Just 10 corporations are operating 185 cafes already, and they’ve announced plans to open hundreds more.
The spread of casino cafes is an unintended consequence of the Video Gaming Act that is undermining its intent and integrity. Casino cafes are not taverns or restaurants but gaming businesses. In other states where cafes metastasized, slot income was reportedly more than 90 percent of their annual business.
These cafes are a threat to the small businesses owners of bars and restaurants and those who run VFWs and American Legion Halls. We are concerned because when customers go to a casino cafe, they aren’t visiting our establishments to buy a meal or a beverage; rather, they’re putting their money into corporate slot machines that ship the revenue out of East Peoria.
This gaming entertainment is readily available at the more than 4,000 legitimate bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal orders licensed in the state. Casino cafes are the lowest form of hospitality business possible. They offer a minimal menu, operate out of a small storefront and have just enough staff to keep the lights on and the slots spinning, sometimes for 20 hours a day.
While East Peoria makes a nickel of every dollar earned at a cafe, that is offset by the lost economic activity at legitimate neighborhood restaurants and taverns. The economic progress casino cafes claim to generate are an illusion because their gains come at the expense of already established community-based businesses.
For many small business owners, video gaming has been a welcome source of new revenue. Left unchecked, these cafes will undermine the hospitality industry video gaming was supposed to assist. Towns like Springfield, Rockford and Loves Park have been overrun with dozens of cafes that snatched up valuable real estate. Locally, Emma’s Eatery in Peoria has siphoned over $490,000 out of town and has only been operational for a year. Emma’s is part of a corporate chain that currently has 50 locations and a total slot revenue of $83.7 million. Are these the kind of businesses we want in our town?
Local mayors need to be given the power to prevent casino cafes from swarming our communities. State Sen. Darin LaHood of Peoria has already filed a bill in Springfield (SB 1794) to give local government more power to work with business owners to create appropriate liquor license and gaming regulations.
Small businesses need to stand together against the onslaught of corporate casino cafes. We spent decades trying to legalize video gaming for our businesses, and now, just two years later, corporate interests have swept in to open pop-up casino cafes.
NEW BEDFORD — A date for a citywide vote on the $650 million casino and hotel project proposed for New Bedford’s waterfront had not been set or suggested to the New Bedford City Council as of Monday as the clock continued to tick for the developer’s application.
A vote in the city would have to occur between May 18 and June 17 to comply with state law, which requires a vote be held between 60 and 90 days after a Host Community Agreement is signed. The city signed its agreement with New York-based developer KG Urban Enterprises on March 19.
“I have heard nothing on the referendum vote,” Council President Brian K. Gomes said Monday, indicating KG Urban had not yet proposed a potential date.
Activity on the casino front has been in a holding pattern this month, as KG Urban works to secure equity investment for the project ahead of a May 4 deadline set by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. A KG Urban spokesman could not be reached Monday.
The council passed several casino-related motions Thursday night in City Hall, though, including a resolution put forward by Gomes to express to the Gaming Commission that the council has unified support for the New Bedford casino project.
Gomes’ resolution cited the benefits of an estimated $50 million environmental cleanup that KG Urban would be obligated to fund on the project’s site, an abandoned NStar power plant off Route 18 on MacArthur Drive, just southeast of downtown.
Support for the resolution was unanimous. The City Council also unanimously approved two motions proposed by Councilor-at-large David Alves. One asked KG Urban representatives to appear before the council’s Appointments and Briefings Committee, to outline their plan for the 27-acre project, which also would include a conference center, public marina, $10 million harbor walk, commercial fishing berths, retail and more.
Alves’ other motion asked KG Urban to work with the council’s Gaming/Casinos Committee to hold “a series of meetings throughout New Bedford, to present and respond to local residents as to the economic benefits of the future casino…and to have developers listen and respond to the concerns of our residents.”
The casino would bring at least $12.5 million to the city in annual payments from KG Urban, plus a $4.5 million up-front payment and additional tax revenues, should city voters approve the project and should New Bedford win the sole resort casino license the Gaming Commission can allocate in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Opponents have argued that a casino would hurt downtown businesses, not provide high-paying jobs, escalate personal bankruptcies and drain resources for people already struggling financially.
Local debate on the proposal is gradually heating up. The New Bedford Chamber of Commerce asked its members in an email Monday to weigh in on the project, so the chamber could best speak on their behalf.
While the Leadership SouthCoast organization has talked about hosting a public forum, former Standard-Times Associate Publisher and Editor Bob Unger, chairman of Leadership SouthCoast’s board, said Monday that those talks hadn’t yet solidified.