Meetings & Information


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Casinos: I’m out

FROM Blue Mass Group:

You know, I was willing to give casinos a chance here in Massachusetts. Other things being equal (yes, yes, I know), more jobs are better; there’s little doubt that at least some gambling dollars that are currently going to Connecticut and Rhode Island would instead stay in Massachusetts if we had casinos; maybe there would be some more tourism money; the revenue would be nice for schools and transportation; etc. Plus, our casino law is the bestest casino law ever written, and we set up the awesomest regulatory agency in the history of casinos whose operations will without question be entirely above board. What could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out. Look at what has happened in just the last couple of weeks. East Boston said they didn’t want a casino, which prompted Suffolk Downs to ask for what they would never consider giving any of their customers: a second chance. And not just a second shot at the same game, but an entirely different game, with new rules. And they got it, for no particularly good reason beyond, what, the Commission feeling sorry for Suffolk Downs? So now there will be another vote in Revere for a Revere-only casino, with incoming Boston Mayor Marty Walsh thinking hard about suing to stop it.

Then, as we all know, the ethics of the Gaming Commission tanked when it turned out that one of Chairman Steve Crosby’s old business buddies stood to make a killing if Steve Wynn gets his casino in Everett. Apparently it didn’t occur to Crosby when he accepted the job that this might turn out to be a problem. To which one can only say, WTF. The utterly predictable lawsuits have already begun, and one has to imagine that the entire process for the eastern license is in danger of falling apart because of Crosby.

Steve and Bill

Then the Gaming Commission decides that Steve Wynn is “suitable” – as long as he’s not engaged in corrupt business practices in Macau. I don’t even know what to say about that beyond, again, WTF (ryepower12 has more). The best part of this one is that Bill Weld is representing Wynn before the Commission, and the photo of Wynn and Weld is priceless.

And now, speaking of Steve Wynn, check out this bombshell in today’s Herald:

Vegas casino titan Steve Wynn, who passed a big hurdle yesterday before the state Gaming Commission, has been meeting with legislators and said the Bay State’s casino law needs changes before he’ll consider the business climate here palatable.
“In our conversations with the state, we’re attempting to get issues resolved that will comfort us,” Wynn said during a break at yesterday’s hearing, at which the commission’s investigators recommended Wynn be deemed suitable to pursue a license.
“We’re expected to make unequivocal commitments — both in the way we do our business, financially, and everything else — to the state of Massachusetts. And we want to make sure that we have the same thing in return,” Wynn said.
Wynn declined to detail what changes he wants in the casino law, telling a Herald reporter, “Not with you. This is not the place.”
But in later remarks, Wynn referred to his concerns about the “arithmetic of gaming establishments” and having enough revenue to keep job-creation promises.

Holy sh!t. Sure looks like Wynn is going to try to get the legislature to cut the tax rate that casinos are required to remit to the Commonwealth (and the Herald reports that two weeks ago Wynn met with Brian Dempsey, the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee). That tax rate, of course, is the basis of all the budget projections (which are already absurdly optimistic) that are at the heart of the case for why we should have the bloody things here in the first place. Maybe he’ll try to get a break from the no-smoking law as well.

And if he doesn’t get his rate cut, then what? Thanks but no thanks? I never thought I’d say this, but read the comments on the Herald article. Some of them are spot-on.

So, f^ck it. This casino law was an interesting experiment, and it seems pretty clear that the experiment has failed. Repeal it, either in the legislature or at the ballot, and let’s have a real conversation about how to generate needed revenue without wallowing any further in this muck.


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