Monday, June 14, 2010

Massachusetts Senate To Debate Gambling Bill Next Week

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The Massachusetts Senate heard input from citizens of the state at public hearings held last week on expanded gambling and Senate lawmakers are set to begin debating the proposed legislation themselves next week.

Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said the final bill that will be debated will be posted on the Senate's website before the debate begins.

The Senate bill is expected to call for three commercial casinos in three distinct geographic zones. One of the three casinos is targeted to go to an Indian tribe. There are two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts - the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.

While the proposed Senate bill has not been finalized there are dramatic differences between it and the version that came out of the Massachusetts House in April. The House bill calls for two casinos and 750 slot machines at the state's four racetracks. The Senate bill is not expected to include slot machines at racetracks.

Assuming that the Senate approves expanded gambling legislation, the Senate and the House would then need to reconcile the differences in their bills and send a bill to the governor for his signature.

Both of the federally recognized tribes said they want a casino in Fall River. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe said that if they don't get a commercial casino license they will build a casino on their reservation on Martha's Vineyard.

State officials claim that the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe gave up their rights to build a casino under federal Indian law because they agreed to abide by state and local laws on reservation land acquired pursuant to their federal recognition in 1987.

Revenues at Connecticut's two Indian casinos are likely to suffer from casinos in neighboring Massachusetts. About a quarter of Mohegan Sun's customers are from Massachusetts while about a third of Foxwoods' customers are Massachusetts residents.

Most everyone agrees that Massachusetts will end up with casinos. Rhode Island lawmakers are so confident of this that they will ask for a referendum this fall to bring table games to the two slot parlors in that state.

The two Indian casinos in Connecticut will soon realize that their best days are quickly coming to an end as their regional monopoly on casino gambling is fading piece by piece.