Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Tribe In The Media: New Ideas For Massachusetts Gaming Discussed

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Along with the US Supreme Court's landmark decision last week that could hamper the ability of some tribes to have land taken into trust by the federal government - including the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Wampanaog tribes of Massachusetts - officials in Massachusetts are now discussing possible gaming developments without the cloud of a massive Indian casino being built in their midsts. This installment of the The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Republican newspaper of Massachusetts on the current status of gaming discussions in that state.

Slots-only casino plan proposed
By Dan Ring
The Republican
March 4, 2009

BOSTON - Saying that state government needs a financial boost, Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill on Tuesday told state legislators they should approve three casinos with only slot machines, including one in central or western Massachusetts.

Cahill said three "slot parlors" could generate as much as $3 billion in upfront licensing fees for the state and about $250 million a year in tax revenues.

"I would put one west of Worcester, in between Worcester and Springfield I think makes sense," Cahill said after testifying before a legislative panel. "That to me makes sense for fairness and also for competition. Nobody from Springfield is going to drive to Boston to play slots when they can go to Connecticut, unless there is a slot parlor in Springfield, or in Warren or somewhere in between."

Gov. Deval L. Patrick raised some doubts about Cahill's idea, saying that short-term ideas should not take precedence over the resort casinos he supported last year. Patrick said resorts would offer more economic benefits and the social costs would be less severe.

"I think the most important thing in this area and others is that we not make long-term decisions on the basis of short-term factors," Patrick told reporters. "Whatever we do or not do is going to be with us for a while."

Similar to Patrick's plan for resort casinos, Cahill would place slot parlors in Boston, Western Massachusetts and the southeast part of the state.

Jeffrey E. Hartman, chief operating officer for the Mohegan Sun, declined to comment on whether the Mohegan would bid for a slot parlor in Massachusetts, saying it's premature. No bill has been submitted to legalize Cahill's proposed slot parlors.

Hartman said he is happy that Cahill is targeting Western Massachusetts for a slots-only casino.

"We like it because it leads to economic development in the west," Hartman said. "Our focus is on developing jobs in Western Massachusetts."

The Mohegan Tribe, which owns the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., wants to open a casino on 150 acres in Palmer across from Exit 8 on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Led by former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, the state House of Representatives last year overwhelmingly defeated Patrick's bill for casino resorts.

Cahill said it makes more sense economically to start with casinos with only slot machines. Cahill said the slot parlors could eventually develop into full-blown casinos especially if the locations are right.

"You have to take into account the realities of the market," Cahill said. "There is just no financing available to build destination resort casinos today."