Meetings & Information


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Yet more reasons to REPEAL THE CASINO DEAL!

WHAT'S AHEAD IN 2014: A big year for state's casino law
By Gerry Tuoti
Posted Dec 31, 2013
As Massachusetts continues to implement its 2-year-old expanded gambling law, 2014 is shaping up to be a pivotal year.
It is feasible that by the end of the year, resort casino licenses will be awarded and a slot parlor could already be open for business. Commercial casino developers who failed with voters elsewhere in the state will also likely jockey for position in southeastern Massachusetts, taking advantage of the region’s unique licensing schedule as a potential avenue toward a second chance.

A number of important deadlines in the licensing process are on the horizon in the coming months.

While several factors complicate casino licensing, particularly in southeastern Massachusetts, the three applicants vying for the state’s single slot parlor license face a comparatively simpler path.

The quest for slots

Raynham Park and Greenwood Racing have partnered in a proposal to bring slots to the former greyhound track the Carney family has owned in Raynham for decades. Penn National is working with Plainridge Racecourse to open a slots parlor at the Plainville-based harness track. Also in the mix is the Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which hopes to secure the license to open a slot facility in Leominster.

The three slot applicants should soon know their fate. According to a revised schedule the Massachusetts Gaming Commission published last week, the commission expects to award the slot license by March 7.

Raynham Park, which proposes a 175,000-square-foot facility, has told the commission it could open a temporary slot parlor within six months of getting approved.

Meanwhile, the slot applicants and surrounding communities have been working to reach mitigation agreements, a process that could involve arbitration if necessary.

Casino questions

The state’s 2011 expanded gambling law allows for Massachusetts to license one slot machine parlor and up to three resort casinos statewide. The law allows for no more than one licensed resort casino in each of three regions of Massachusetts.

The Gaming Commission says it is on track to award licenses by the end of May for resort casinos in Western Massachusetts and Greater Boston. Suffolk Downs in revere and Wynn Resorts in Everett are vying for the Greater Boston license. In Western Massachusetts, MGM’s proposed Springfield casino is the only remaining applicant, after local voters defeated other proposals.

While the Gaming Commission anticipates awarding those resort casino licenses by May 30, it could take several more months for the fog to lift from southeastern Massachusetts.

The region, which includes Bristol and Plymouth counties, Cape Cod and the islands, is behind the licensing schedule the rest of the state is following. The reason for the uncertainty is that the lawmakers who drafted the expanded gambling law hoped to avoid a scenario in which a taxpaying commercial casino and Native American casino compete in the same small region.

Under federal law, an eligible tribe that meets certain requirements may open a tribal casino in a state that allows expanded gambling. Tribal casinos are approved through a division of the federal government and are not subject to state licensing.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, who achieved federal recognition in 2007, has proposed building a casino in Taunton, but lack the sovereign land necessary to do so. The expanded gambling law set a freeze on commercial casino applications in southeastern Massachusetts to give the Mashpee a chance to make progress on their federal land-in-trust application.

The tribal factor

Amid growing concerns about the Mashpee’s ability to meet the strict federal land requirements, the Gaming Commission voted in April to allow commercial applications in southeastern Massachusetts. The commissioners have not yet decided whether they will actually award the license, however, giving the Mashpee additional time.

To date, KG Urban, which has a federal court case challenging the constitutionality of the gambling law’s tribal set-aside, is the only commercial applicant in the region. Applicants who failed elsewhere in the state however, are still allowed to re-apply in southeastern Massachusetts.

Proponents of commercial gambling in southeastern Massachusetts say the 2009 Supreme Court decision on Carcieri v. Salazar makes it impossible for the Mashpee to meet the requirements to attain sovereign land. The Mashpee dispute that claim and say they expect a favorable ruling from the federal Department of the Interior.

The tribe, which saw its first compact with the state rejected, reached a new compact with Massachusetts earlier this year. The new compact calls for a tribal casino to pay 17 percent of revenue to the state in lieu of taxes, an amount that would drop to 15 percent if a slots parlor opens in the region. If a commercial casino were to open in southeastern Massachusetts, the tribal casino would pay the state nothing.

In the unlikely event that a tribal casino opens and no commercial casinos open anywhere else in the state, the Mashpee would pay the state 21 percent of casino revenue.


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