Editorial: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino odds look slimmer

An artist's rendering of proposed First Light Resort and Casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. Image from MWT

Newspaper doesn't believe the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is getting any closer to opening a casino in southeastern Massachusetts:
Why would private investors want to build a casino in the first place if the market can’t support it? The track record in other states, unfortunately, doesn’t support counting on the industry to self-regulate. Casino operators know that once thousands of constituents have jobs at a casino, politicians will feel pressure to preserve them — even at the expense of the tax revenues that were the reason for allowing casinos in the first place. For instance, three casinos went into operation in the tiny state of Delaware; now that they’re struggling, they’ve gone to the legislature for a bailout.

The best way to avoid that outcome in Massachusetts is to ask tough questions about the market potential for the casino proposal at the Brockton Fairgrounds, which is the furthest along of the three, and the nascent casino plans in New Bedford and Somerset. “It’s time for us to do a new market analysis” of the region, commissioner Gayle Cameron said in March, and she’s right. Before finalizing another license, regulators ought to stress-test the plans against a worst-case scenario: What if New Hampshire legalizes casinos, Rhode Island and Connecticut increase the size of their gambling industries, online gambling becomes legal and widespread, and casinos lose popularity the same way other once-popular forms of gambling like horse racing have? Would it still be plausible to build a $500 million resort casino in Southeastern Massachusetts — the minimum amount of investment required under state law? While the odds of a Mashpee Wampanoag casino opening in Taunton now appear slimmer than ever, how would a tribal casino affect a third state-licensed casino?

Proponents of a Southeastern Massachusetts casino ask why, if the state can’t sustain three casinos, their region should go without. Why not take away the Greater Boston or Springfield license instead? But the casino law, which voters upheld in a referendum last year, is supposed to maximize economic returns for the state. Greater Boston and Springfield are bigger markets than New Bedford. And New Bedford, along with everywhere else in Massachusetts, would benefit when the state collects more in tax revenues from the casinos, but would take a hit if the state had to give up some of those revenues to prop up a failing venture.

Get the Story:
Editorial: Should Massachusetts allow another casino? (The Boston Globe 4/13)

Also Today:
Gaming Commission eyes extension (The Boston Herald 4/15)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

Federal Register Notice:
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Fee-to-Trust Transfer of Property and Subsequent Development of a Resort/Hotel and Ancillary Facilities in the City of Taunton, MA and Tribal Government Facilities in the Town of Mashpee, MA by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (September 5, 2014)

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Still no word from BIA on Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino bid (03/17)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waiting for BIA answer on casino (02/02)
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