Meetings & Information


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The House never loses

Just wondering --

Wasn't a slot parlor supposed to save the dying greyhound race track in Rhode Island?

If lenders absorb the $290 million loss, does that mean that shareholders and taxpayers are subsidizing Kerzner and Wolman?

Twin River got 24/7 gambling which the host community, Lincoln, opposed in a referendum. When a Beacon Hill lawmaker insists that "Local Control" will be crafted into legislation, just remember Twin River. Local Control doesn't exist with the predatory gambling investors.

Is this what they mean by "Casino Capitalism" ?

BusinessWeek reported on the bankruptcy plan for Twin River --

The plan eliminates $290 million in debt, relies on legislation to eliminate the requirement for 125 days of live greyhound racing annually, obligates the state to reimburse marketing and management costs, and projects expansion of the promotional points system Twin River uses to encourage people to gamble more money.

The plan includes a new, 5-year, $300-million loan from UTGR's "first lien senior secured lenders" secured by a new claim on "substantially all of the Debtor's assets." The loan carries a minimum variable interest rate of 8.5 percent.
Lenders have given up on collecting approximately $290 million in debt owed by UTGR.

The plan also wipes $155 million in loans due to secondary lenders. The $155 million will be "written off" and those lenders will not recover anything when the plan is approved -- unless the slot parlor is sold off at a high profit.

Only about two-thirds of UTGR's roughly 300 unsecured creditors, among them the tradesman who fix equipment and the vendors who sell office supplies, will be paid in full. Unsecured creditors were owed about $4.1 million at the time of the June bankruptcy filing.

Those with claims of $2,500 or less get paid in full. Those with claims greater than $2,500 would receive 5 percent of their bills. However, they can opt to take $2,500.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sometimes, it's only a sentence that matters

Most of us found ourselves immersed in the issues surrounding Predatory Gambling because it was in our backyards - NIMBY if you will!
The more we learned about the financial costs, the more our opposition grew.
The facts, articles, research, the flawed public policy are included here, a work in progress --
The information about the human costs and the economic costs is available, though frequently drowned out by Casino Cheerleaders and their sound bytes.
Governor Patrick, to his credit listened, heard about the concerns of volunteers who have no financial interest, and supported an independent cost benefit analysis.
When StandardbredCanada included the sentence below, it deserves comment --
Who, pray tell, might be called upon to create such a beast? Apparently, the stop gambling group had a persuasive spokesman, but DeLeo was not impressed.
The wide ranging coalition of groups that compose USS-Mass is growing as more people are educated about the flaws of exploiting one class of people to enrich the already wealthy gambling investors.
To the author: The Governor is no fool. The potential composition of the group was discussed, suggestions offered. No persuasive spokesman/woman. Just the facts. I was there.
Racetracks around the country and in other countries are closing, gambling revenues declining. Attendance is dwindling. The handwriting is clear. Indiana is a good example. Discretionary income is declining. Casinos, racinos, slot parlors around the country are defaulting, going bankrupt, restructuring. There is no Manna from Heaven.
It's time to remove the blinders from public officials, as well as participants.
Gambling as flawed public policy?

Maybe it's time to talk!

Governor Patrick graciously took time from his busy schedule to listen to concerns raised by a coalition of volunteers - those who sacrifice their personal time because of their devotion to their communities and are not paid.
That coalition is not filled with high paid lobbyists, or media propagandists who monopolize the conversation and the ears of Beacon Hill.
Disappointing, but not surprising, was the immediate dismissal by the embattled Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo whose mind was made up long ago, facts be damned!
DeLeo promised consensus building, but seems more intent on imposing his iron will, generating conflict and accomplishing little.

And then there's the Senate President who boasts that she doesn't read anything that is anti-gambling. How's that for an impressive open mind in determining a major public policy decision?
This is the same Senate President Therese Murray who said "Ca Ching" and gestured as if she was pulling the lever on a slot machine.
Clearly, the Senate President's advisers haven't informed her that slots don't have levers any more because they require too much time to pull - aahhhh! those few seconds matter when you're feeding addiction!
Look, Ma! No levers! This from Mohegan Sun.



From Lynn --

In a Dec. 9 letter to DeLeo and state Senate President Therese Murray, Patrick said talks with casino opponents “confirmed in my mind that slot parlors, ‘racinos’ or any other form of convenience gambling is not something I can support.” In the letter, Patrick encouraged them to meet with the casino opponents as well. “One of the ideas they proposed was for a fresh, independent and transparent analysis of the benefits and costs of expanded gaming,” Patrick wrote.


It's time for an open, public dialogue that considers the economics of this issue.

Surely the same coalition that spoke with the Governor, Cabinet members and the Attorney General's Office would welcome an honest discussion.

Maybe it's time to talk instead of tossing barbs at political activists who passed this Resolution at the Democratic Convention --


Whereas the Democratic Party has a long and proud tradition of advocating for social justice, working for policies that promote the public health, and fighting to protect citizens from exploitive and predatory business practices;
And whereas modern slot machines use neuroscience-informed technology to mesmerize and entrap gamblers and to keep them playing until they have exhausted their resources ("playing to extinction");
And whereas medical research has documented the highly addictive nature of the brain's chemical reactions to slot machine stimulation;
And whereas licensing and promoting such addictive, predatory gambling technology for the purpose of raising State revenues goes against the aforementioned values and principles for which the Democratic Party has long stood, and is at odds with the ideals that underlie our Party's honorable and consistent struggle to end the deceptive and predatory lending, marketing, and pricing practices that have pushed so many families to the brink;
And whereas legalizing slot machines would erode participation in the Lottery and siphon away from local small businesses the discretionary spending on goods and services that they depend on;
And whereas the development of slot machine parlors would neither create significant new jobs, nor increase tourism in Massachusetts;
And whereas evidence from other states indicates that the long-term costs of gambling addiction -- increased substance abuse, increased crime, increased family discord and dysfunction -- outweigh the short term benefits of licenses and gambling revenues;
Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Massachusetts Democratic Party, as a matter of both principle and policy, opposes the legalization of slot machines and any similar efforts to promote addictive and predatory gambling as a means of raising public revenues.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't worry. No one will notice.

Beacon Hill leaders, mired as usual in a public display of backroom deals, secret meetings with predatory gambling interests, will never notice what transpires around them.
A tone deaf Speaker of the House and a Senate President who readily acknowledges she would never read anything that's anti-casino are in charge of what exactly? Everything?


There are many truly dedicated and informed elected officials overshadowed by this caliber of leadership. What a shame for us all!


They'll never notice!
Where have all the Indian gaming profits gone?

Isn't it interesting that the people who have made the most money off of Indian gaming in Connecticut aren't even American Indians.

The big money off the top at Foxwoods, 9.9 percent of adjusted gross income through 2016, has been going to the rich Malaysian family that put up the first $58 million to build a casino on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation.

The deal was brokered by G. Michael Brown, the savvy New Jersey gambling lawyer who was hired by the Pequots to find someone to finance their casino and who - ta-da - came up with his own clients, the Lim family of Malaysia.

Certainly the Lims are forever grateful to Brown for helping tap so deep and for so long into the Pequot golden goose.

Indeed, even as a recession-battered Foxwoods struggles under the onerous terms of the original Lim loan deal, Brown continues to profit by his associations with the Malaysians.

He was part of the deal in which the Lims put up money seven years ago for the Seneca Indians to build a casino at Niagara Falls. The $80 million, five-year loan had a whopping 29 percent interest rate.

More recently, Brown was the Malaysians' point man in a deal to take a near-controlling share in a racetrack and casino in Monticello, N.Y., that includes an interest in a proposed casino resort by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

And in Massachusetts, the Malaysians have surfaced as the new partners of the Mashpee Wampanoags, who are hoping the state may soon legalize casino gambling. Surely Brown, the Malaysians' U.S. counsel, is behind the scenes in that deal, too.

The other big winners in Connecticut Indian gaming are the original partners of the Mohegan Indians, including local developer Len Wolman and the South African gambling king Sol Kerzner.

Kerzner and Wolman didn't make out so well with their $690 million investment in the Twin River slots hall in Rhode Island, which is mired in bankruptcy.

But their investment in Trading Cove Associates, the original managers of the Mohegan Sun, continues to pay them handsomely. In fact, the partners are making far more off the casino than tribal members.

Under the terms of a controversial buyout of the managers' original contract, the tribe continues to pay the Trading Cove investors 5 percent of annual gross revenues through 2014, a deal that has been estimated to be worth up to $ 1 billion.

Wolman and Kerzner had been working with the Wampanoags in Massachusetts until they were muscled aside recently by the Malaysians.

According to reporting by the Cape Cod Times, Wolman and Kerzner had signed a deal with the now disgraced Wampanoag chairman (he's serving time for federal embezzlement and corruption charges) that would have earned them three times as much money from a Massachusetts casino than the tribe.

It's hard to feel sorry, though, for the losers in a battle of the leeches.

I'm sure the Malaysians won't make much less.

How did this happen?

And how did a rich Malaysian family, the origins of its Asian-Pacific gambling monopoly murky, escape any state or federal regulatory scrutiny here and manage to extract obscene profits from an industry that even today is not welcome in many places?

Those would be good questions for all of the lawmakers who have sat idly by while it happened or for those in Massachusetts, where it may be about to happen all over again.

Fools' Gold continues to dwindle

CT continues to report declining slots revenues, that might be a reflection of market saturation, declining disposable income, or the flawed fiscal policy of exploiting gambling addiction.

Casinos' November slot revenue down

Tribal owners of the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos reported year-over-year declines in their November slot revenues today.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owner of Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, said its "win" for the month was down only 1.4 percent over November 2008, while the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported a 10.8 percent slide at Mohegan Sun.

Mohegan Sun still took in more slot revenue than Foxwoods, winning $59.6 million at its 6,709 machines in November. The Foxwoods casinos won $53.7 million at 7,451 machines.

Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun had reported year-over-year declines of around 4 percent for October.

The Mohegan authority remitted nearly $15 million, or 25 percent of its November slots win, to the state Division of Special Revenue, while the Mashantuckets’ payment to the state totaled $13.7 million.

By comparison, Atlantic City’s 11 casinos reported last week that their gaming revenue for November was down 13.4 percent over the same month in 2008. That includes a 9.5 percent decline in slot revenue and a 21 percent decline in table-games revenue.

Connecticut’s casinos do not regularly report their table-games revenue.

Monday, December 14, 2009

National Black Chamber of Commerce

The thought provoking comments below were received from a regular reader whose identifying information I removed.

It seems that we embrace vague promises without adequate guarantees and that we need to ask more questions.

Tonight I was watching one of my “right wing” talking heads programs – Glen Beck. His guest was Harry C. Alford, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). One of the topics they discussed was jobs creation. It is Alford’s contention based on several examples he gave where a construction project will be advocated and approved for commencement and then “the union carpetbaggers come in from far and wide to fill those construction jobs”. He states that unions have a monopoly on these jobs and only a fool thinks that local non-union tradesmen have a shot at them.

We have already witnessed this in Palmer. The first “public information meeting” that our casino study group put on was totally dominated by the unions. Of the 50 or so union attendees (easy to identify as they were issued Union windbreakers to wear in the meeting, just before they walked into the meeting auditorium), I recognized none of them as being Palmer residents who are hoping to get these construction jobs at the casinos for themselves. Thus another myth: even the construction jobs will be filled by out-of-towners, not the needy unemployed locals.

Same is true with the permanent casino jobs. Do you think that with Norwich, Ct. having almost 30 ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS programs in their public schools to facilitate children of casino workers, that these children were originally from Norwich?

To me, this is not a racial issue nor an anti-union issue. It is about deceiving the public into believing that jobs created will go to the host community and abutting communities’ residents.
I speak with passion about this as like Kathleen (President of
United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts , my family comes from a strong union background. My dad was a union worker at [XXXXX] for over 30 years. My wife organized [BLANK] in the local [BLANK] and was aided and supported by and was a Teamster until her retirement. My [FAMILY MEMBER], one of my biggest inspirations for truth and justice is a retired [PROFESSIONAL - STRONGLY CONNECTED TO LABOR] who represented the labor movement almost all of his professional career. So, I have no argument with organized labor. I do have an argument when it comes to COST/BENEFIT to our community, the region and the Commonwealth.

Perhaps we should explore the issue of who will really land these jobs?

Gambling with Lives

The following are excerpts from a lengthy article that's worth the time to read --

Gambling with Lives

After a federal court ruled against the state’s attempts to keep out large-scale casino gambling, the tribe assured residents that a casino would provide thousands of jobs. I was an editorial writer for The Day of New London at the time with experience in addiction counseling, and I grew concerned about the possible negative impact. And so, as the tribe began to construct the casino, I conducted a series of telephone interviews with Atlantic City officials to gauge what we could expect in Connecticut.

The Atlantic City beat cops spoke frankly about the rise in crime they witnessed after the casinos opened in the late 1970s, and others were equally blunt about the decline in the number of local businesses, the continued decay of urban neighborhoods, and the stubbornly high unemployment in the wake of casino gambling. Subsequent studies would later prove the point: In 1976, when New Jersey voters approved casino gambling in Atlantic City, unemployment in the city was 14.7 percent; in 1997, it was 12.7 percent. During those two decades, the number of locally owned businesses in Atlantic City dropped by half. But even at the time, the message I heard was clear: Don’t believe the promises of good times to come. Casinos bring with them a dark underside, and Connecticut had better get ready.

A look at social problems in Nevada, particularly Las Vegas, increased my worry. Las Vegas, then and now, struggles with high rates of suicide, dropouts, childhood problems, and low educational attainment. Later studies again confirmed those early concerns: In 1997, a study of death certificates in Reno, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City found those cities had suicide rates that were up to four times higher than in cities of the same size where gambling was not legal.

In 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission released its findings, the most critical and least challenged of which was the discovery that problem gambling doubles within fifty miles of a casino. The statistic is no surprise to anyone who lives near a casino. The effect of casino gambling has become the old news of shared anecdotes at town meetings and backyard barbecues. And the state government—which early on negotiated with the tribes to get 25 percent of the revenue from slot machines—has done little to stem the tide, content to collect more than $1 million a day from the casinos and additional millions from the state lottery, which has been legal in Connecticut for decades.

Occasionally the cost of casino gambling becomes more public—as when, over the last decade, several officials from different towns, all women, were convicted of embezzling money to play the slot machines at the casinos. The tax collector of the town of Ledyard, Yvonne C. Bell, a grandmother with no previous criminal history, was convicted in 2001 of stealing more than $300,000 to feed her slot-machine habit. Another tax collector from the nearby town of Sprague was convicted of stealing $105,000 to gamble away. In 1992, the year Foxwoods opened, there were 43 embezzlements in Connecticut; in 2007, there were 214 such crimes, ten times the national average.

Part of the reason that gambling spread so far and so fast is that the industry markets its product as just another form of harmless fun. In a brilliant move, the industry coined the term gaming as the euphemism of choice. Organized religion was slow to challenge the spread and, even today, rarely speaks out. Most of all, government has become predatory in its use of gambling as a worry-free method of increasing revenue without raising taxes. Indeed, the states have moved from granting permission to cheerleading. Government boosterism has legitimized gambling, eroding what few moral scruples remained on the part of average people against engaging in a behavior that, just a few decades ago, would have been considered largely unacceptable.

The complex nature of the task [of assessing impact costs] didn’t stop the University of Nevada at Las Vegas from doing its own study in 2003. Professor Bill Thompson estimated that the cost of social problems in southern Nevada, a region that includes Las Vegas, amounted, conservatively, to at least $300 million to $450 million a year and possibly as high as $900 million—more than the taxes that gambling contributed to the state treasury.

The federal government did undertake an in-depth study of gambling twice, in 1976 and in 1996, when Congress authorized the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. The 1996 commission had a budget of only $5 million, with only a little over $1 million of that for research. The late Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois), who coauthored the law that created the commission, told me that gambling interests lobbied so heavily against the proposal he felt lucky to get any budget for the venture at all. And its most important recommendation, that the country put a moratorium on the spread of casino gambling, has been ignored. State revenue from gambling has risen 65 percent since 1998, the year the commission concluded its research. In 1996 there were 500,000 slot machines in the United States; in 2008, the count had reached 817,000, about one for every 275 adults, which does not include slot machines that are illegal or engineered to fit legal definitions of sweepstakes games or bingo machines. The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers projects that the United States will gain an additional 156,000 machines by 2012.

Besides minimizing or ignoring altogether the negative impacts of gambling, elected officials are equally unenthusiastic about open debate that might stem the race for easy money. Pennsylvania, for example, legalized slots in the middle of a July night in 2004 without hearings, research, or public comment. Unabashed gambling booster Governor Ed Rendell said, “For every one person who falls addicted to gambling or loses their paycheck, I’ll show you 500—mostly seniors—who spent $40 at a casino and had the best day of their month.” Surveys vary, but most pin the percentage of Americans that are either problem gamblers—or the more damaging manifestation, pathological gamblers—at around 3 to 4 percent. Those percentages, however, do not include the millions of people who may be at risk.

The slot machine, which is at the root of so much addiction, is responsible for 70 percent of the gambling revenue in Las Vegas—and the percentage is higher elsewhere. Slot machines are vacuum cleaners designed to swallow money, yet they remain among the least reported, least understood technological innovations influencing modern life.

As one gambling analyst told the newspaper Gaming Today, “The longer you sit in front of one, the more you lose. Next to prostitution, it’s the world’s greatest business. There is no other business in the world where people budget money to lose to you.”

... Harrah’s discovered that 90 percent of its profits came from 10 percent of its most avid customers, according to Binkley. This is unsurprising. Many reports suggest that addicts produce a disproportionate share of casino profits. A 1998 Nova Scotia study found that 6 percent of regular gamblers produced 96 percent of gambling revenue, and a whopping 54 percent of the revenue came from just 1 percent of problem gamblers—leading researchers to conclude that, at any one time, half the patrons in front of slot machines in Nova Scotia were problem gamblers. A 1999 study estimated that more than 42 percent of all spending at Indian-reservation casinos came from problem gamblers. A study in Australia concluded that problem gamblers were only 4.7 percent of the population yet generated 42 percent of machine revenues.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

BILLINGS - The American Association of University Women held a meeting Saturday to talk about gambling addiction. Attendees heard from Mary Fitzpatrick, who represents the Montana Council of Problem Gambling and is also a counselor here in Billings.

Fitzpatrick said gambling is much like other addictions, but is especially bad in Montana because it is so easy to gamble here. “When you have it wide open as Montana, everyone who is vulnerable is gonna have a chance to fall into problem gambling."

Officials encourage people who struggle with gambling addiction to get counseling and attend gamblers anonymous.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rep. Reinstein: At least she's consistent

Patrick wants new cost-benefit analysis on gambling

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick is pressing lawmakers to request a new, independent analysis of the costs and benefits of increased gambling, even as lawmakers hammer out the details of a casino bill that could be debated as early as next month.

Patrick made his comments when asked Thursday about an hourlong meeting he had this week inside his office with casino opponents, who are pushing for the new study.

“I think the points that were made when we met about refreshing the analysis of both the economic cost-benefit and also the human impact are very well taken,” Patrick told reporters. “I have commended that idea forward to the Speaker and the Senate President.”

Patrick’s comments come as gambling foes are upping the ante in their bid to block casinos in Massachusetts — enlisting the aid of former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and former state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

Both were slated to talk at an anti-gambling forum at Faneuil Hall moderated by City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, the former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate.

Kathleen Conley Norbut, president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts said the state deserves more detailed information before dramatically increasing gambling.

“We think that all people in the spectrum should have some sound data around this to make decisions and that has not been done,” she said. “It’s a new world. It’s a new economy.”

Harshbarger said increased gambling is not a fiscal panacea and is far outweighed by social costs, including increased gambling addiction and crime.

Harshbarger also said he was concerned about a rush to push through casino legislation in the midst of an economic crisis.

“There is simply no economic or public policy justification,” he said. “I believe that the more people talk about it, the more information they have, the less likely it is that people will go this route.”

Casino supporters say the issues have been studied enough.

They say they realize that casinos won’t solve the state’s fiscal troubles. But they say it will help stop the flow of gambling dollars out of the state while also providing new jobs for those out of work.

State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, D-Revere, whose district includes Wonderland Greyhound Park, said those jobs are desperately needed in her hometown.

“You can do a cost-benefit analysis every day in Revere at the Northgate Mall when you see the buses leaving for Connecticut,” which has casino gambling, Reinstein said. “We could waste time and money doing another (study) or put something in place that would put people to work and have revenue coming in immediately.”

In addition to stifling Democracy and fearing criticism (Beacon Hill: Democracy dies at gambling interests' request, What kind of democracy....? , Beacon Hill: Secrecy and Closed Door Sessions Prevail), State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, D-Revere has joined the ranks of those counting license plates. Foxwoods defaulted on loan payments and Mohegun Sun, in spite of glowing promises, cancelled a major expansion.

Maybe Beacon Hill hasn't noticed the casino/racino bankruptcies, defaults, foreclosures and "re-structuring" going on around the country, believing that life stops at the borders.

The economy has changed and so have the previous projections about predatory gambling. Since no impartial cost benefit analysis has been conducted, maybe it's time to do so.

Is Rep. Reinstein afraid of FACTS as well?

The renewed interest in gaming hasn’t gone unnoticed, with pro-gambling groups ramping up their lobbying efforts in Massachusetts.

In 2005, companies and groups pushing legalized gambling spent $764,500 on lobbyists to press their message on Beacon Hill. During the first six months of 2009, those same interests surpassed that total, pouring $777,983 into lobbying.

Casino foes say they know they are being outspent on Beacon Hill, but still hope to win over enough lawmakers to block any casino legislation with an aggressive grass-roots push.

One of the biggest questions is how much sentiment toward casinos has changed among lawmakers.

The last vote on casinos was in March 2008, when the House voted 106-48 to send a casino licensing bill to a study committee, effectively killing it for the session. That vote came when former Democratic House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi — a casino opponent — was in office.

Today’s House Speaker, Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, and Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, have both said they support casino gambling.

How can Beacon Hill leadership support something when they don't know what the costs will be?

Patrick said that while he has recommended a fresh analysis, he’s taking a hands-off approach to the issue as lawmakers try to hash out a final deal.

“Let’s be candid, the ball’s in their court,” Patrick said. “I’ve already expressed myself, and the Legislature is working now on their own approach.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Faneuil Hall

Thanks for sponsoring and supporting such a great forum that was well attended on a cold night! What an appropriate venue!

Khazei, Dukakis, Harshbarger on anti-casino panel tonight at Faneuil Hall

As state legislators are warming up to plans to expand casino gambling in the Bay State, a group of high-profile opponents will make their case against slots and casinos tonight at Faneuil Hall.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, his wife, Kitty, and former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger will be among the panelists at a forum sponsored by United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, said organizer Kathleen Conley Norbut.

City Year co-founder and former U.S. Senate candidate Alan Khazei will serve as master of ceremonies at the event.

“I think it’s a lousy way to raise the revenue we need for important services and it means a 100,000 new gambling addicts in the state,” Dukakis said this morning. “This gold mine of revenue just isn’t there.”

Dukakis proposed lawmakers repeal some of the 40 tax cuts introduced after he left office to raise the $1.7 billion that the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says will be forfeited this year because of tax incentives.

He added the state has to stop the cycle of cutting taxes during boom times in favor of banking the surplus revenue for rainy-day funds and the state pension system in preparation for leaner times to come.

“We cut taxes at the height of the boom and then when the recession comes, all the states go to Washington with a tin cup and say ‘Hey, we need help,’ ” Dukakis said.

He also warned casinos will cut into state lottery revenues that go to cities and towns.

Legislators under the leadership of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi shot down Gov. Deval Patrick’s push to build three resort casinos in 2008. House Speaker Robert DeLeo is more open to casino gambling and Senate President Therese Murray has said expanded gambling is likely “inevitable.”

Patrick met with casino gambling opponents on Monday.

“Slots and casinos cannibalize other businesses and local economies,” said Norbut, a former Monson selectwoman. The small western Massachusetts town borders Palmer and Warren, which have been eyed by developers for resort casinos.

Norbut said the economic recession is shining harsh light on the pitfalls of expanded gambling.

“This is the worst time when people don’t have discretionary income and further fewer of us have the appetite for corporate government subsidies (for casinos),” she said.

Khazei, who finished third in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Edward M. Kennedy, made his opposition to casino gambling an issue during the campaign. His spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Harshbarger also could not be immediately reached.

Lender tolerated no payment for +1 year from casino?

Casino capitalists become casino owners! Or is it Predatory Lenders become predator gambling owners?

Lenders Take Over NJ's 1st Casino for Nonpayment

Lenders take over Resorts Atlantic City, 1st casino outside Nevada, after year of no payments

Don't pay your mortgage, and eventually the bank will own your home.

That's what's happening to Resorts Atlantic City, which enjoys a special spot on the national gambling scene as the first U.S. casino outside Nevada.

Unable to make debt payments for more than a year, Resorts was concluding the process late Wednesday of handing itself over to a newly formed company consisting of its main lenders, including Wells Fargo. The ownership transfer follows Resorts' agreement to let its lenders have the casino if they cancel nearly $381 million in debt.

Documents were exchanged and signed Wednesday evening, ahead of the deal's official closure Thursday morning.

The new company, RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC, says it wants to sell Resorts Atlantic City as quickly as possible. But with financing still extremely tight and consumers, including gamblers, still holding onto their wallets, that may not happen soon.

Analysts said Resorts had no option but to give the bank the keys — a tactic other businesses, including many hotels, have employed lately.

"You're in a hotly competitive environment in which every operator, not just in New Jersey but in every market, is going to fight for every dollar and every customer," said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey consulting firm. "The competitive landscape is just brutal."

Do you think we might call this "Market Saturation" instead of "hotly competitive"?

Resorts, whose gross operating profit fell nearly 80 percent in the third quarter of this year, owed nearly $337 million more than it had on hand as of last month.

The deal concluding Wednesday night was approved last month by state casino regulators. It called for former owner Colony Capital LLC to hand its interest in the casino to co-owner Nicholas Ribis, who will manage the casino and continue to own the gambling equipment inside it.

Ribis says he may try to buy Resorts.

Resorts opened in May 1978, ushering in the casino gambling era in Atlantic City. But in recent years, newer and bigger casinos that opened nearby have dwarfed it. It also was hurt when slots parlors in neighboring Pennsylvania began siphoning off its most loyal customers, mainly day-tripping seniors who would ride the bus to play slots for a few hours.

Dubai to hold Las Vegas CityCenter

It seems appropriate that a country that built itself based on casino capitalism, should hold on to it Las Vegas Casino as it implodes -- [LINK]

Moody’s cut the ratings of six government-linked companies, leaving all in junk status. Emaar was among the companies downgraded.

The conglomerate and the emirate had relied on cheap cash to build up Dubai over the past decade. But the bills are coming due and the money is not there.

That crunch prompted Dubai’s government, on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, to announce that Dubai World would seek a six-month "standstill," effectively a delay, on repaying some of its $60 billion in debts.

The company later said the restructuring would involve roughly $26 billion in debts, and indicated it may sell some assets to raise the cash. But it said its profitable ports and related free zone operations would be exempt from the restructuring. Also off the table was its private equity division Istithmar World and Infinity World Holding, the co-owner of Las Vegas’ new $8.5 billion CityCenter hotel and casino complex.

Yet even as it tries to fence off more valuable assets, Dubai is coming under mounting pressure from creditors. Dubai World’s Istithmar lost ownership of the W Union Square New York hotel in a foreclosure auction Tuesday.

Less discretionary income for slots and another bankruptcy

From Indiana --

November revenues dropped 9.7 percent from October and 11.5 percent from November 2008. Majestic Star I in Gary was the only casino to show a gain from October to November, posting a 0.2 percent increase.

"There is some cause for concern," said Ed Feigenbaum, the publisher of Indianapolis-based Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter. Feigenbaum attributes the poor economy to the increasingly lower casino revenue statewide since July.

"It's something we're not accustomed to seeing," he said. " We saw the same progressive decline in 2007 but not quite this much."

Each of the five Northwest Indiana Casinos -- Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, Majestic Star I and II in Gary and Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City -- individually reported less revenue from the same period a year ago.

Fewer people have discretionary income these days, which affects casinos' revenues, Feigenbaum said. For many people, "these aren't even choices, anymore."

Ameristar saw the highest percentage drop in revenues year over year with a 16.3 percent decrease from November 2008. Majestic Star I had the next-largest drop with a 14.8 percent decrease, followed by Horseshoe with a 12 percent drop. Horseshoe, which reported a 12 percent revenue drop from November 2008, posted the largest year-over-year revenue decrease of $5.6 million.

Attendance at the local gambling riverboats followed suit, as 71,970 fewer people walked through the turnstiles in November when compared to October. The five casinos saw 23,074 fewer customers than in November 2008. Both Majestic Star I and II reported 15.9 percent fewer customers month to month, and 14.38 percent fewer customers from November 2008.

Feigenbaum doesn't believe Majestic's bankruptcy proceedings will disrupt its revenues.

Gambling Risk: Electrocution?

Who expects to be electrocuted playing slots?

Defective slot machine zaps gambler

A slot machine at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino malfunctioned, delivering a shock that floored a gambler, according to a lawsuit brought by the victim.

While the incident occurred over three years ago, Willie Jean Robinson is still waiting to hear whether she can collect civil damages over the bizarre personal injury case.

Robinson is suing Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and IGT Inc. –– the manufacturer of the slot machines –– for damages related to her injuries.

The case stems from an incident that occurred in March 2006 when Robinson was playing a slot machine at the casino and allegedly received a shock that injured her right hand and left her with lasting loss of feeling in her fingers.

“When Plaintiff inserted the card into the slot machine ... she was immediately shocked by the machine and fell to the floor. The individuals who accompanied Plaintiff to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino attended to her and it was immediately reported to the Defendant Manager on the floor,” the civil complaint reads.

Her attorneys allege that Robinson suffered personal injury, lost wages, and incurred medical expenses as a result of the accident. But the case hasn’t been as simple as determining who, if anyone, was at fault for the defective slot machine.

Robinson’s lawyer, John Hayes of Charleston, S.C., filed the case in Jackson County Court. But the defendants in the case, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and IGT Inc. can’t agree where the case should be heard.

Last month, legal counsel for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Tribal Gaming Casino Enterprise asked a judge in Jackson County Superior Court to move the case to tribal court, arguing that a failure to do so would “adversely affect the tribal sovereignty of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

Attorneys for IGT Inc. –– a publicly traded global gaming company –– argued that because neither the company nor the plaintiff resides in Cherokee, tribal courts should not have jurisdiction over their portion of the case.

Hayes said after talking to the casino’s attorney, he agrees the proper place for the case to beard is in tribal court. Hayes said he expects Judge Zoro Guice to issue an order that will move the case to tribal court.

Gambling Addicts: Highest Rate of Suicide

Researchers: Gambling changes brain dynamics

If you know someone with a gambling problem and they say they can't stop, there's a very good reason.

And it isn't a lack of willpower.

A pathological gambler has different brain characteristics than the normal person, scientists now believe.

Sophisticated diagnostic techniques have been applied to study compulsive gamblers and the results have shown that the brain's chemical response to gambling is similar to a drug addict's response to a fix or an alcoholic's response to a stiff drink, said psychiatrists from Loma Linda University Medical Center and UCLA.

Gambling can trigger the same release of dopamine - the reward chemical in the brain - as do illicit drugs or alcohol, Drs. Peter Prezkop of Loma Linda and Timothy Fong of UCLA agreed.

As drug and alcohol users chase their first high with more substance abuse, pathological gamblers chase their initial rush - often by increasing the money they put down on bets.

"It isn't important whether you win or lose. To a lot of people, it's the rush," said Bob, a recovering pathological gambler who lives in Upland and attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Rancho Cucamonga. (Gamblers Anonymous members do not divulge their last names.)

While gambling stimulates some areas of the brain into hyperactivity, other parts become under-active, said Fong, who is co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program and director of UCLA's Addiction Medicine Clinic.

Prezkop, an assistant professor of psychiatry at LLUMC, said that the areas of the brain dealing with limits on behavior, job, family and responsibility become less active.
"I see (excessive) gambling as a brain disorder," said Fong. "The higher executive functioning skills and problem solving become impaired. It's similar to patients with methamphetamine addictions."

The real challenge in treatment is to reverse that."

The comprehensive 2006 California Problem Gambling Survey found that the overall lifetime prevalence rate of problem and pathological gambling in California is 3.7 percent of the adult population, near the upper range of the nationwide estimate, from 2 percent to 5 percent.

The study has not been updated.

Fong said the 2006 survey result was about twice what it had been in a survey nearly two decades ago - prior to the boom of Indian gaming.

Last year, the number of calls to the California Council on Problem Gambling's Hot Line showed a 40 percent increase, from 10,912 in 2006 to 18,470 calls in 2008.

Last year, 7.5 percent of the calls were from the 909 area code, 6.6 percent were from the 951 area code, 3.2 percent were from 323, and 3.3 percent were from both 626 and 562, according to reports.

At the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino near Highland, an effort to promote responsible gambling is taken seriously, said Steve Lengel, executive director of operations.

The casino is one of the few in the state to be certified by state and national gambling addiction agencies, he said.

All 3,000 employees, "no matter what position" have been trained to look for problem gamblers.

If they hear or see signs, then they would go to an ambassador, an employee trained at a higher level, who would talk to the gambler "very delicately," Lengel said.

The ambassador will talk to them about the hot line, noting that telephone counselors could set them up with a support group or counseling.

In some cases, the gambler may elect to "ban themselves" from the casino. Security could be alerted if they later re-enter and use their club card, he said.

Hae Wang Lee, a certified gambling addiction counselor in Walnut, said that gamblers can hide the effects of their habit easier than many with other addictions.

"Most gamblers have an IQ that is 120 or higher. They are very bright, and can scheme and lie easily," he said.

Jane Shultz, who runs an intensive outpatient program in West Los Angeles and Redlands that treats all addictions, said that a huge reason for gambling is the relief of stress and anxiety.

Students can quickly take their gambling addiction to the Internet, she said. In one case, a student was on the computer for 30 hours straight, she said.

Shultz said there are four phases of progressive deterioration in problem gambling:

Winning phase: occasional gambling with ever increasing amounts of money;

Losing phase: debts begin to accumulate;

Desperation phase: The gambler begins to steal money to suppost the gambling habit.

Hopeless phase: The gambler becomes overwhelmed by debt, divorce and suicidal thoughts.

Marc Lefkowitz, acting executive director and training director of the Anaheim-based California Council on Problem Gambling, said it's hard for addicted gamblers to recover after divorce.

"They have no place to go back to, they have no reason to stop," said Lefkowitz, who also teaches classes on how to counsel problem gamblers at San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino and Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

Bob, at Gamblers Anonymous, said that pathological gamblers have the highest rate of suicide of any addiction.

"A lot of times the financial burden is so great they feel there is no other solution," he said.

State fines Meadows Racetrack & Casino

State fines Meadows Racetrack & Casino

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino was fined a total of $10,000 by state regulators today for two incidents allowing gambling by individuals who should have been barred from the facility.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board found that on Aug. 11, an 18-year-old was able to enter the gaming floor and play slot machines for about 45 minutes. State law forbids slots play by anyone under age 21.

On Aug. 26, a person who had previously registered on the state's self-exclusion list was able to obtain a Meadows players club card for use while playing slot machines that day. Casinos are supposed to do everything possible to deny play by compulsive gamblers who have self-excluded themselves. The individual was eventually identified, and cited for criminal trespass by state police, when attempting to cash a check at the casino.

The Meadows was fined $5,000 for each of the violations.

Additional Information:

Underage Patron and Self-Exclusion Violation Lead to $10,000 Fine for PA Casino

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kaufman: Tax incentive rollbacks preferable to casinos

Kaufman: Tax incentive rollbacks preferable to casinos

Lexington - As House leaders ready a gambling bill, former Gov. Michael Dukakis slammed casino gambling Tuesday as "lousy" and said lawmakers would be better off repealing "worthless" tax incentives he says could be redirected to boost the state economy.

"If Massachusetts decides that more gambling is the way to pay for the services we need, I am confident that every other New England state, not just Connecticut and Rhode Island, will follow suit, and the hoped for money will be minimal at best," Dukakis said in an email to the News Service. "We have enough addiction in our society. We don't need 100,000 more gambling addicts to add to the problem."

Dukakis said repealing "all or some" of about $2 billion in longstanding tax breaks could help "put people to work and create the foundation for a healthy future economy."

He and his wife, Kitty, along with former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, plan to keynote a Thursday forum to lay out gambling opponents' case against bringing slot machines and casinos to Massachusetts. Opponents, facing a surge of interest in expanded gambling within the Legislature, met Monday afternoon with Gov. Deval Patrick, who last session led a failed push for resort casinos.

Dukakis isn't alone in his call to repeal some of the state's billions of dollars in tax exemptions, deductions and credits doled out each year. Human service advocates have argued that some exemptions are outdated and could be applied to services for the needy that have faced cuts in the down economy.

The Legislature's Revenue Committee has set up a subcommittee to examine the state's 60 pages of exemptions and credits and co-chair Rep. Jay Jaufman hopes to have a preliminary report out in January.

"The only conclusion that I've drawn so far is that over time, that list of exemptions and deductions looks pretty ad hoc," the Lexington Democrat said. "It's hard to figure out what the rationale is for many of them. What we're trying to do is establish some policy around those. We're sort of two steps removed from having a set of recommendations. We don't yet have the criteria and we don't yet have an analysis."

Kaufman said he doesn't believe expanded gambling is "a particularly sound, sustainable way to raise money for the state."

"I think it's even worse when considered as an economic development strategy," he said. "I certainly think we have to look elsewhere for any kind of additional revenues."

But legislative leaders have signaled a growing consensus that expanded gambling is likely, if not "inevitable" - as Senate President Therese Murray dubbed it earlier this year. Proponents cite the potential to create thousands of permanent and construction jobs and raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state. They also argue that Massachusetts residents are already traveling to Connecticut to gamble, returning with addiction issues but generating no revenue for the commonwealth.

Patrick, who in 2008 threw the weight of his administration - and much of the political capital with which he swept into office - behind a failed push to build three resort casinos, has appeared cooler to expanded gambling proposals than he once was. In recent interviews, he has emphasized the "human costs" and his top economic development aide said last week the administration would let the Legislature take the lead on any gambling push this session.

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Massachusetts will forfeit $1.7 billion in corporate, income and sales taxes in the form of tax breaks this fiscal year, an amount that exceeds the state higher education budget.

"One of the big problems is that we have very little data or information about most of the tax expenditures," said budget and policy center executive director Noah Berger. "There's just not information about what we're accomplishing."

Breaks include a $123.1 million exemption on container purchases, a $70.7 million small business corporation income tax break, a $78 million film tax credit, a $25 million life sciences credit, as well as dozens of other credits and exemptions affecting brownfields, medical devices, rental housing, research and development, aircraft parts, student loan interest and fuel for vessels engaged in interstate commerce.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Case for the Commonwealth Against Slots & Casinos

The Case for the Commonwealth Against Slots & Casinos

Thursday, December 10, 2009, 7pm-8:30PM

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

WHAT: “The Case for the Commonwealth Against Slots & Casinos” is a forum at Faneuil Hall in Boston, with noted civic and political leaders, to discuss the proposals to legalize state-sponsored predatory gambling, slot machines and casinos in Massachusetts.

WHO: Sponsored by the USS Mass Coalition, the panel will include:

Governor and Mrs. Michael Dukakis
Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger
Kathleen Conley Norbut, President of USS Mass
Jim Rubens, Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling
Honorable State Senator Susan Tucker

Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year, as the Master of Ceremonies.

The Rev. Dr. Peter D. Weaver, Bishop of the United Methodist Church- New England Conference, will offer the Invocation.

WHEN: Thursday, December 10, 2009, 7:00- 8:30pm

WHERE: Faneuil Hall, 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA.

Blue line to Aquarium/Faneuil Hall, Green Line to Government Center, or Orange line to State Street.

CONTACT: Kathleen Conley Norbut, (413) 267-3869 or to arrange interviews with panelists, or details on visuals, taping and recording the event.

USS Mass – United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts is the up-growth of concerned citizens, taxpayers, activists and statewide organizations across the political spectrum opposed to predatory gambling in the Commonwealth. We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has been working diligently to organize and educate citizens and Legislators on the facts about the economic and social costs of legalizing predatory gambling in the Commonwealth. No state that has legalized predatory slot machines has solved their fiscal problems.

President: Kathleen Conley Norbut Vice-President: Bob Massie

Treasurer: Sue Kennedy

Directors: Les Bernal, Tom Larkin, Kelly Marcimo, Jessie Powell, Mary Tufts

Governor Listens to Gambling Opponents


By Kyle Cheney

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 7, 2009.....Opponents of expanded gambling in Massachusetts, after a sit-down Monday with the state’s chief executive, described an engaged Gov. Deval Patrick ready with a raft of questions about the potential pitfalls of bringing slots or casinos to Massachusetts.

Patrick, who last year championed a failed proposal to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts, quizzed the opponents during a 75-minute meeting –15 minutes longer than scheduled in order to accommodate the governor’s questions, according to attendees.

Kathleen Norbut, president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, said those who attended the meeting urged the governor to get behind a new cost-benefit analysis of expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

“What I sense is, as time has passed and more data has emerged, that disputed the revenues of his proposal and as the economy has significantly changed, he’s had an opportunity to take a look at this and his administration, from a different altitude,” Norbut told the News Service. “I think there was a very important exchange about the need for a fresh cost-benefit analysis, that the economics have changed since his original proposal for casinos.”

A Patrick spokesman described the gathering as “a good meeting.”

“The Governor appreciated the feedback from the attendees and will be following up with legislative leadership promptly,” said the spokesman, Alex Goldstein. A leadership meeting between the governor, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, scheduled for 4 p.m., was canceled due to a scheduling conflict for the Senate president, according to the governor’s office.

In September, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Massachusetts should authorize resort casinos in addition to slot machines at racetracks, laying out a vision of expanded gaming that could launch a proliferation of venues around the state. Murray has called casinos in Massachusetts “inevitable” but Patrick’s support for casinos has softened somewhat and the governor in recent months has made a point of emphasizing that any expanded gambling foray must take into account the human toll on gamblers.

Last month, Patrick described any agreement among state leaders about the future of gambling in Massachusetts as “general,” adding that “by no means is there agreement on exactly what contours it ought to take.” Speaking on WTKK-FM Nov. 4, Patrick said, “I don't want anybody in the Legislature to be thinking about expanded gaming as a quote fix unquote for the fiscal challenges facing the commonwealth. It's not. It's not. It's another job-creating opportunity, which has to be done right and because there are real human costs. That has to be faced. There are real human costs. We have to be very, very clear and careful about the regulatory framework that that business comes into.” Asked by host Jim Braude whether there would eventually be Bay State casinos, Patrick said, “That remains to be seen.”

Opponents of expanded gambling say casinos and slot parlors derive the bulk of their earnings from addicted gamblers, driving many into bankruptcy and steering their dollars away from other areas of the economy. They also cite higher crime rates and ramifications for friends and families of gambling addicts. Backers of casinos cite potential for the creation of thousands of good-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues, at a time when state spending has consistently outpaced tax collections.

The dozen attendees of the meeting included former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Bob Massie; Sen. Susan Tucker (D-Andover); Rebekah Gewirtz, director of government relations at the National Association of Social Workers; Massachusetts Family Institute director of public policy Evelyn Reilly; Massachusetts Council of Churches associate director Laura Everett; National Organization to Stop Predatory Gambling executive director Les Bernal; League of Women Voters executive director Kelly Marcimo; Somerville Democrat Fred Berman; political consultant Tom Cosgrove; Middleborough resident Jessie Powell, United to Stop Slots Massachusetts webmaster and Bridgewater resident Mary Tufts; and Palmer Citizens Impact Study Committee member Stephen Sears. Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki attended as well.

Norbut said Patrick grilled attendees about “dynamics that have happened on the local level,” including what she described as efforts by some local public officials to force gaming upon their constituents.

United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts is also sponsoring a Thursday forum featuring former Gov. Michael Dukakis, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, Sen. Susan Tucker and Democratic U.S. Senate contender Alan Khazei to outline their opposition to expanded gambling. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Faneuil Hall.

A jacketless Patrick invited the attendees into the 2 p.m. meeting, which was requested by the gaming opponents. Norbut said the meeting followed similar appointments with Bigby, Bialecki, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and First Assistant Attorney General David Friedman.

Norbut said opponents of expanded gambling believe the governor has “modified his stance” on gaming since his proposal failed last year.

“I think he’s certainly taking a different position and learned that both the data and proposal that he put forth was flawed, and that was in the old economy,” she said. “It’s clear to even casual observers that he’s certainly modified his stance.”

Last week, Bialecki said the administration plans to let the Legislature drive the gambling debate, noting that they voted down Patrick’s proposal last session.

Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill), who co-chairs the Legislature’s economic development committee, which has jurisdiction over gambling proposals, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breaking news

Mass. casino foes to host forum with Dukakis

BOSTON—Casino foes are hosting a panel discussion with former Gov. Michael Dukakis and former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger as they try to rally opposition to expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

The evening forum is scheduled for Thursday at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

It will also include City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who has made his opposition to casinos a theme in his campaign for the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat.

The forum comes as lawmakers weigh different options for expanded gaming in Massachusetts, including allowing slot machines at race tracks or licensing resort-style casinos.

Gov. Deval Patrick and top Democratic leaders say they support casinos.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the issue after they return in January.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

PA Legislators Get a Mite Testy

Lawmakers call for revoking Foxwoods license

Impatient with the stalled Foxwoods casino project, four Pennsylvania lawmakers yesterday called on state gaming regulators to revoke Foxwoods' license and award it to new investors to develop Philadelphia's second slots parlor.

At a curbside news conference beside the casino's proposed site - a vacant lot on Columbus Boulevard in Pennsport- two Democratic and two Republican legislators said time had run out for the troubled project.

"Foxwoods is deadwood," said State Rep. Michael H. O'Brien (D., Phila.).

The project's investors were licensed for a slots parlor, O'Brien said, and they should immediately begin building one. They should not be allowed to wait for the outcome of negotiations in the General Assembly over a law to permit table games at Pennsylvania casinos, he said.

On Monday, Foxwoods filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, saying it could not meet a Tuesday deadline to submit architectural and artist renderings of its planned casino.

The Foxwoods group, which is searching for funding, told regulators that potential investors would need to know the final form of the table-games law before committing funds to the project.

State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) said no other casino applicant has had the "convenience of waiting to see what the future holds."

O'Brien and Vereb are members of the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

Democratic State Sen. Larry Farnese, whose South Philadelphia district includes the project site, said, "The time is right for the gaming board . . . to get us out of business with Foxwoods."

The gaming board's demand for architectural drawings by Dec. 1 was one of a series of deadlines imposed last August, after it granted Foxwoods a two-year extension to have 1,500 slots operational by May 2011.

Of 11 major slots licensees, the Foxwoods group is the only one not operating or under construction.

State Rep. Curt Schroder (R., Montgomery), minority chairman of the Gaming Oversight Committee, said yesterday that the Foxwoods investor group had received preferential treatment thanks to some members' connections to Gov. Rendell.

The main Foxwoods investor is a partnership representing the charitable interests of the families of Center City developer Ron Rubin; New Jersey entrepreneur Lewis Katz; and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. They are friends of Rendell; Katz is also a major fund-raiser for the governor.

"It doesn't take a lot to connect those dots," Schroder said.

Gary Tuma, a spokesman for Rendell, said the governor "didn't care to respond."

F. Warren Jacoby, a lawyer for Foxwoods, called the accusation "innuendo that is so unfair to people."

"We're dealing in a regulated activity and we're complying with the rules of the gaming board," Jacoby said. "It's up to the board to decide if we've shown just cause."

Jacoby added that the Foxwoods developers were not asking the board to change the 2011 deadline. Instead, they are requesting that regulators "reorder" the deadlines, with architectural drawings delivered by March 1.

In December 2006, the gaming board awarded two slots licenses for Philadelphia: Foxwoods and the SugarHouse Casino on North Delaware Avenue in Fishtown and Northern Liberties. SugarHouse is under construction and expected to open next year.

Casino Glitter Blinds Reason

As CT Foxwoods defaults, revenue declines, parking lots are empty, Philadelphia Casino Glitter blinds reason.
Twin Rivers, among others, serves notice that state governments cannot negotiate appropriate contingencies to protect taxpayers from insolvent partners.

Foxwoods developers seek more time to show plans

Citing ongoing negotiations in Harrisburg to allow table games at Pennsylvania casinos, investors in the Foxwoods project have asked state regulators for more time to produce a plan showing how their proposed slots parlor in South Philadelphia will look.

Last August, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ordered the investors to submit by today architectural and artist renderings, conceptual proposals, engineering plans and "other documents relating to construction of a facility."

Lawyers for the board threatened to take steps to revoke Foxwoods' license if the deadline was not met.

On Monday, with one day to go, the investors requested an extension until March 1, 2010, according to Stephen A. Cozen, a lawyer for Foxwoods. That date is also the deadline for filing a financing plan with the gaming board.

In an interview today, Cozen said the group needs more time due to uncertainty stemming from legislative efforts to write a new state law permitting table games.
Gov. Ed Rendell is depending on future tax revenue from table games to support the state budget.

Familiar rhetoric? Same words, different state.

The change, Cozen said, would impact both Foxwoods' design and its ability to attract potential investors, who "need to see what the final terms of the gaming legislation will be."

Other unknowns that could affect financing, he added, include the cost of a table-games license and the tax rate on table-game revenues.

"It was clear to us that unless we know what the law is going to be," Cozen said, "we can't finalize a deal with anybody."

In a statement today, Cyrus Pitre, chief enforcement counsel for the gaming board, said he expected the matter to go before the board for a full hearing "in the near future."

His staff, he said, was "thoroughly" reviewing both the investors' petition and the monthly updates Foxwoods has been under order to submit to regulators since September.

"We take the conditions that were put in place by the board very seriously," he said.

Three years ago, the Foxwoods group won one of two licenses for slots parlors in Philadelphia. But the project has been stalled by political and neighborhood opposition, turmoil in the credit markets, and financial problems for a main investor, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the giant Foxwoods casino in Ledyard, Conn.

The Foxwoods group now has to find new financing for the Columbus Boulevard casino, as well as an operator to replace the tribe, Cozen said.

The largest share of the project is controlled by a partnership that includes the charitable interests of Center City developer Ron Rubin, New Jersey entrepreneur Lewis Katz and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider.

In the petition filed Monday, Foxwoods' attorneys said the partnership has been "working with its investment adviser on a non-stop basis" to line up financing.

According to the filing, the investors have reached "substantial agreement" on proposed terms with "an international gaming company" interested in backing a "full-scale project on Columbus Avenue."

Foxwoods previously told the gaming board that it might have to install a temporary casino in order to meet the state's May 2011 deadline for having 1,500 slot machines operational.

Cozen said the group's ability to raise capital for the project will determine whether it pursues a temporary facility, erects an interim building as the first phase of a permanent structure, or proceeds with a full-scale casino from the start.

Paul Boni, an attorney for Casino-Free Philadelphia, an anti-casino activist group, described Foxwoods' request for more time as an attempt to pressure the state legislature to quickly pass a table-games law.

"They're trying to hold the legislature hostage," he said, "by saying, 'We're going to drag our feet until you pass the legislation we want.' "

The Foxwoods right-to-know fight

From our friends in "The Birthplace of America," Casino-Free Philidelphia, offer PlanPhilly

Attorneys for two Philadelphia advocacy groups hope to convince the state's Office of Open Records to order the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to release documents filed by Foxwoods Casino.

Paul Boni, who represents Casino-Free Philadelphia, and Adam Cutler, a director with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, who represents the Chinatown Preservation Alliance, took the matter to the Office of Open Records to appeal the denial of a public records request made to the PGCB.

The documents that Casino-Free and Chinatown Preservation seek comprise a report that Foxwoods was required to file with the PGCB's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement in October, as a condition of the two-year license extension the Gaming Control Board granted the casino in August.

Casino officials were told to describe their efforts to develop a Columbus Boulevard facility with at least 1,500 slot machines and detail their efforts and progress toward financing that casino. They also had to submit a list of all outstanding licenses, certifications and permits that they need from federal, state, county, local and other agencies, and provide a progress report on the status of each of them.

It would be good for the public to see this information, too, Cutler and Boni say – particularly when Foxwoods' status is uncertain. “We think these documents are of public importance, both in terms of determining whether Foxwoods is honoring the conditions that were imposed by the Gaming Board in its extension of time request, and in determining whether the Gaming Board is exercising its authority appropriately in determining whether those conditions are being adhered to,” Cutler said.

In a document filed with the Office of Open Records Monday in response to Boni’s and Cutler's filing, PGCB attorney Denise L. Miller-Tshudy called the argument that Boni and Cutler have a right to the documents as members of the public, in order to monitor the board's enforcement of its Sept. 1 decision granting Foxwoods extension, “most interesting.”

“It is not the public's duty to monitor compliance with Board orders or violations of the Gaming Act or the Board's regulations,” Miller-Tshudy wrote. The PGCB has sole authority here, she said. She quoted an earlier Commonwealth Court decision involving the Department of Health which stated that allowing private citizens to become involved in state agency business would “produce chaos.”

She wrote the report sought is not public information because it is protected under the state's gaming law and is part of an on-going investigation.

“The BIE has the power and duty to, among other things, investigate licenses for non-criminal violations, including for potential violations referred to the Bureau by the Board or other person and monitoring compliance with the Gaming Act and Board's regulations,” she wrote. “The documents sent to BIE on Oct. 1 2009 were received as a result of a Board order; however, they were also received in accordance with BIE's statutory power. By way of BIE's statutorily given authority and power, any records provided to or collected by BIE are per se investigative in nature.”

Miller-Tshudy also wrote that state gaming law, “strictly protects information given by its applicants, licensees, permittees and certificate holders due to the very sensitive and confidential information required of them in the pursuit of determining whether or not the entity or person is eligible and suitable to hold the privilege of that credential.”

Miller-Tshudy could not be reached for comment; PGCB Spokesman Doug Harbach referred PlanPhilly to the document she filed.

In an affadavit attached to the PGCB filing, Paul Mauro, BIE deputy director, states that the information collected through the report is being used by the BIE for the purpose of monitoring Foxwoods' compliance with the board and its “suitability for licensure.” He states, “These documents will be utilized as evidence by BIE in future proceedings before the board ...”

Foxwoods, which has been allowed to file information as an intervener in the case, also says the filing should not be released, for reasons very similar to the PGCB's. It's very clear this is an investigation, wrote Foxwoods attorney F. Warren Jacoby. At the August 28 license extension hearing, when Chief Enforcement Counsel Cyrus Pitre was asked what would happen if Foxwoods failed to meet the conditions imposed by the board, he said that the casino's license could be revoked. “Chief Counsel added: 'If they've not met the burden of showing that they were moving forward or trying to do their best to attain or reach certain benchmarks, then we would be filing an enforcement action to revoke their license.'” Jacoby wrote.

Boni disagrees that anything that goes to the BIE is automatically part of an investigation. “It is self-serving of the agency to say that anything that goes to BIE is confidential,” he said. “All that means is if there is any information that it wants to keep secret, it could have it sent to the BIE.”

Cutler said there are some elements of the documents that likely are confidential under the law – things like social security numbers, but that doesn't mean the entire document should be confidential. These items should be redacted.

But, Boni said, things such as Foxwoods' progress toward opening on the waterfront, its design, and its permit status should all be public information – especially now, as they could shed light on the project's viability.

As of mid-October, when Foxwoods attorney Jacoby wrote a letter to the gaming control board chairman saying the casino may need to build a temporary facility to open by their current deadline – May 2011 – financing for the project had not been secured. An amendment that would further extend the casino's deadline was mysteriously added to a bill in Harrisburg, and then just as mysteriously was removed. Some local state legislators have been calling for the state to rescind the casino's license.

Long-time Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity, vice president of Tierney Communications, is no longer the press agent for the casino. Foxwoods attorney Stephen Cozen is now taking press calls, she said. Cozen could not be reached for comment Tuesday, nor did he respond to a phone and email request to talk about the temporary casino last month.

Both Alan Greenberger, the city's deputy mayor for planning and commerce, and Terry Gillen, the mayor's senior advisor on economic development and point-person on casinos, told PlanPhilly recently that they have no idea what is happening with Foxwoods, because they have not received any information from the casino's developers.

The October report was just the first. The PGCB confirmed that the November deadline was met. A third report is scheduled to be filed by Dec. 1. The public records case is only about the first report, but Boni and Cutler say the ultimate ruling will set precedent for future requests.

As of the current schedule, Boni and Cutler have until Dec. 1 to respond to the recent PGCB and Foxwoods filings. The Board and Foxwoods must respond to that by Dec. 7. And the Office of Open Records is expected to rule by Dec. 14.

Both the petitioners and the PGCB have the right to appeal that decision to Commonwealth Court.

The voters spoke

Animal Blawg contained recent comments (below) from Jennifer Krebs about declining interest in Greyhound racing nationally.
In Massachusetts, Beacon Hill: Democracy dies at gambling interests' request, secret meetings were conducted to create betting parlors to preserve the dead tracks and then passed the House on a voice vote by members too cowardly to record their votes or leadership too anxious to conceal.
One might wonder where were the legislators from districts that supported the ban. The following represent districts that voted to ban Greyhound Racing --
The voters spoke.

I am on the Board of Directors of GREY2K USA, a national, non-profit organization that works to pass stronger dog protection laws and close down existing greyhound racetracks.

In November 2008, GREY2K USA became the first group to successfully close down dog tracks through the citizens initiative process, passing Massachusetts Ballot Question 3.

GREY2K USA has been instrumental in fighting for stronger laws to protect racing greyhounds. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, we successfully passed laws requiring that states notify the public on the number of greyhounds injured while racing, and report on the ultimate fate of racing dogs. Also in Massachusetts, we helped pass the first state-funded greyhound adoption trust fund in United States history. In Florida and New Hampshire, we passed legislation to restore greyhounds to the protections of anti-cruelty laws.

As the years have passed, public interest in greyhound racing has decreased. Over the past two decades, commercial dog racing has experienced catastrophic economic decline, and now represents less than 1% of all wagers made annually in the United States. The market demand for dog racing shrinks every year. Since 2004, eighteen dog tracks have either closed or ended live racing. Competition from other forms of gambling, coupled with increased awareness of the cruelty of greyhound racing, has had a significant negative impact on racetrack revenues.

The racing industry is trying to sell a product that few people want. But instead of accepting that, dog track promoters desperately grab for the only lifeline left – they fight for the legalization of expanded gambling as a way to save commercial dog racing.

Proposals to legalize slot machines at dog tracks almost always tie dog racing to slot machines, requiring by law that dogs continue to race as a platform for expanded gambling. Even though this marriage of two unrelated forms of gambling makes little sense, it is politically convenient. Dog track promoters can then argue for the legalization of slot machines as a way to save commercial dog racing.

GREY2K USA is at the forefront of defeating attempts to prop up greyhound racetracks with subsidies, other forms of gambling such as slot machines, and special favors from politicians. Since 2002, we have helped defeat attempts to subsidize dog races with slot machine profits in Massachusetts, Florida, Kansas, New Hampshire, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon. Dog track owners in Colorado, Kansas and Oregon decided to close their facilities as a result.

Once the Raynham Park and Phoenix Greyhound Park tracks close by the end of the year, there will be 23 tracks operational in 8 states.

Please visit
to learn more greyhound racing and our work to end it. There, you’ll find many ways to support us. Together, we can make a difference and help greyhounds nationwide.

Thank you,
Jennifer Krebs

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wisconsin: Gambling at tracks didn't work

Wisconsin learned a difficult lesson.
Massachusetts has the extraordinary benefit of examining the experience of other states.
The more one learns about the flaws of predatory gambling, the more one understands that a foundation built on casino capitalism or expanded gambling is destined to fail.
Taxpayers can't afford to subsidize wealthy casino investors at the expense of others.

Story of gambling a losing one

Twenty years ago this month, Kaukauna Mayor Ron Van De Hey couldn’t have been happier.

He was on a panel at the annual winter meeting of Wisconsin Associated Press editors to discuss the opening of Wisconsin to gambling, and his city had just been awarded a license to operate a pari-mutuel greyhound racing track, one of only five in the state.

The competition for the greyhound tracks had been intense that summer of 1989. Only two years before, the voters of Wisconsin overturned the state’s historic anti-gambling laws and passed a long-debated constitutional amendment to allow the creation of a state-run lottery and the legalization of pari-mutuel betting.

Wisconsin municipalities were invited to apply for licenses and after weeks of cities designing financial incentives, contentious lobbying and questionable secret meetings, the state’s newly formed Racing Board announced that Kaukauna, Lake Delton, Hudson, Geneva Lakes and Kenosha were the winners.

Mayor Van De Hey told the state’s newspaper editors that “the people of Kaukauna are feeling very good about themselves” and he predicted that the track would mean at least 300 jobs to his city, not to mention an expected influx of visitors who would eat, sleep and shop in the Outagamie County city, which had a population of 12,000 back then.

And for a brief time, the five dog tracks did well. It is estimated that 3.5 million people went to gamble on the dogs in 1992, the first full year they were all open. I’m sure Kaukauna got a nice kick to its economy those first few years.

Alas, like so much that relies on the fortunes of gambling, no more.

The Kaukauna track has been closed for years. In fact, the last of the five tracks that brought so much joy and hope for the future to their cities will close at the end of this month. Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, which had been holding out hope of getting permission to open a Menominee Indian casino at the track, announced it will close New Year’s Eve and let go its 180 remaining employees. The casino wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, if ever, and Dairyland was losing $7 million a year.

The irony is that the constitutional amendment that created the dog tracks also led to their demise.

For when Wisconsin lifted its gambling prohibition, it indirectly opened the doors to Indian casinos. At about the same time the dog tracks were being built, federal Judge James Doyle ruled that because Wisconsin had a lottery and legalized betting, it also had to allow the Indian tribes to open casinos on land they owned.

In the end, dog racing couldn’t compete with blackjack and slots. Besides, the novelty of racing greyhounds quickly wore off.

But such is the age-old lesson of gambling. There are always more losers than winners.