Culminating in 2011, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick saw an expanded gambling law come to pass on his watch and devoted significant time to negotiating a gaming compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. On September 18, 2015 the U.S. Department of the Interior finally approved the tribe’s application for land in trust. Now the tribe can build a casino without a state license. The city of Taunton would welcome the tribe’s $500 million First Light Resort Casino with open arms either way.
The 2011 Massachusetts gambling law allows for three commercial casinos and a slots parlor. Wynn Everett and MGM Springfield are already approved and the Plainridge Park slots-only casino is up and running. Region C saw several competitors fade away in the final stretch leaving only Mass Gaming and Entertainment’s Brockton casino proposal to be considered. At least one of the previous contenders cited the possibility of the Mashpee succeeding as reason enough to pull out.
The numbers seem to indicate there is enough pie to go around and if Brockton can tie up the license they don’t see the tribal casino as a threat to their success. According to a study commissioned by Rush Street Gaming (Brockton/Mass Gaming) the Brockton casino could make over $400 million a year without the Tribe operating and over $300 million with First Light up and running. Wynn would take a 10% hit on their $770m in annual revenue and Plainridge would lose about 15% with the tribe’s casino in competition.
It gets a little sticky when reviewing certain caveats in the 2011 law and the tribe’s compact negotiated with Patrick. If the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) doesn’t issue a licence in the southeast region (Brockton) the tribe would pay 17% of their revenue to the state. If a state license is issued to another casino they would not have to pay a dime – but – if a commercial casino is licensed (Brockton) that casino would tender 25% of their gaming revenue to the state.
That quagmire of numbers, seemingly solvable with 3rd grade math, is enough to cast a pall over the entire question of who may get how much of the Massachusetts gambling pie.
According to Cape Cod News, Mass Gaming and Entertainment said in a statement earlier this week, “While it is likely that the Department of Interior’s decision will be challenged and litigated for years, our proposal will bring needed revenues, jobs and economic development to Brockton and the Commonwealth,” and, “We believe the Gaming Commission should continue with the Region C licensing process.”
The statement furthered the company’s position by saying, “We believe based on experience and significant market research that a casino in Brockton would be successful even with a tribal casino in Taunton.” They continued, “We would not be applying for the Region C license and committing our own significant funds if we were not confident in this project.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met yesterday and said they have the authority to issue a license, but did not commit as the Brockton developers had hoped they would. Chairman Stephen Crosby’s affirmation of authority means that even if the Mashpee casino goes forward, which it will, the MGC has the legal authority to issue a license to Brockton.
The MGC noted that they have not received a final application from Mass Gaming and Entertainment, and the deadline for tendering it is next Wednesday.
“We will wait to see whether or not we have a qualified applicant,” Crosby said.
Arlinda Locklear, counsel for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe said that the MGC’s continued considerations “reflect an understanding that the Legislature clearly preferred three destination resort casinos, rather than four, in the commonwealth,” according to a report today in the Boston Herald.