Should a resort-style casino be developed in Southeastern Massachusetts? - The Boston Globe

Friday 6th March 2020

The citizens and local communities of Southeastern Massachusetts deserve the same opportunities as the rest of our state.

Under the Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, the Legislature devised a regulatory system intended to award one slot parlor license and a single resort casino license for each of three distinct regions -- A, B, and C.

The state followed this thoroughly vetted process in awarding licenses to the MGM Springfield, and Encore resort casinos, and the Plainridge Park slots parlor. In Southeastern Massachusetts, however, federal administrative rulings on the land rights of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe have created an ongoing cycle of uncertainty that continues to plague Region C casino plans.

A destination resort gaming facility would secure significant economic benefits for our area and the entire Commonwealth. The gaming industry has already generated 12,000 construction jobs and $548 million in state revenue, more than $300 million of it going to local aid.

A well-planned destination resort casino would create substantial economic opportunities. However, those opposed to awarding the last commercial license now argue that our casinos' inconsistent revenue results and failure to meet initial projections signal an "oversaturated" gaming market.

I respectfully disagree.

First, this argument fails to account for the business Southeastern Massachusetts casino would absorb from Connecticut and Rhode Island customers. An additional resort facility would also challenge the existing Massachusetts casinos to become more competitive in their operations.

Moreover, gaming initiatives often miss initial revenue projections. Twin River Casino's sports book, for example, generated less than half its projected first-quarter revenues.

The most effective way to assess market saturation is to simply use the process in place. Skepticism about the industry's viability could be settled very quickly -- when the timing is right -- by putting Region C out to bid.

So far, the Gaming Commission has effectively safeguarded this system from improper influence. Maintaining the Region C plan is the option most consistent with the Legislature's intent to ensure our state's gaming system is as fair, equitable, and transparent as possible. Departing from the original plan at this late stage would contradict fundamental notions of fairness for Southeastern Massachusetts and corrupt the integrity of gaming licensing in the Commonwealth.

Retired minister, anti-gambling advocate, Brockton resident

Anyone who thinks Las Vegas-style casinos are the answer to Commonwealth revenue woes, better think again.

As we have learned, the state's two resort casinos in Springfield and Everett -- along with the Plainville slots parlor -- are underperforming. They may fall short of the $300 million in annual state revenues projected when the gaming act became law in 2011. The governor's fiscal 2021 budget already reflects an anticipated decline of $11 million, according to the State House News Service.

What we are learning sooner rather than later is that all that is glitzy does not necessarily mean gold for state coffers.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is asking the question: Do we need any more resort casinos?

The five-member group that regulates gaming in the state currently is considering what to do about a third and final resort casino license for Southeastern Massachusetts allowed by that 2011 law which stipulated "up to three."

Notably, the MGC is inviting the public to weigh in on whether current performance levels should factor into whether it reopens the process for Region C.

"Of course 'underperforming' matters" is the response. Why even think of adding more competition to drain business?

The commissioners also want the public to ponder the effect of so-called "tribal gaming" if it came to Region C.

Mashpee-Wampanoag leaders, who seek to build a casino in Taunton, are likely studying the same data we all are about market saturation and economic viability. Who can ignore the presence of seven casinos -- including slot parlors -- already concentrated within an approximate 100-mile radius? Where are new customers going to come from to get to you?

The commission wants to know what other "factors or issues" should be addressed if Region C is reopened for a gaming license.

Where do we start? The issues never change for those of us who fight to stop the potential effects of predator gambling in our communities: social breakdown, addiction, loss in property values, infrastructure, cultural decline, traffic, crime.

While the cool, clear heads at the MGC conduct unbiased, transparent research into gaming's future in Massachusetts, there is no doubt they can already see the writing on the proverbial wall: Keep Region C casino-free.

This is not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.

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