While the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is right to celebrate recent developments in their struggle to build a casino in Taunton, Massachusetts the local and regional landscape has changed since the tribe finished hammering out their final gaming compact with then governor Deval Patrick.
The tribe’s initial compact was rejected by the federal government in late 2012 as being too far-reaching in addressing aboriginal hunting and fishing rights and including too many concessions. That agreement would have seen the state receive 21.5 percent of net casino revenues. As the 2013 agreement was being finalized the Massachusetts Gaming Commission began open meetings to consider a commercial license in the region. Under the current compact the tribe will not have to share revenue with the state if a commercial casino is opened in the area.
Now the commission is considering whether or not to grant a commercial license in the southeastern part of the state referred to as Region C. The lone suitor for the license, Mass Gaming & Entertainment, says they can compete and thrive if the tribe’s efforts go forward and are basically fighting for the right to garner a license for their Brockton casino proposal. At least one of the bidders for the 3rd and final casino license cited potential competition from a Taunton casino as a major reason for dropping out – they were likely not able to confirm funding with the looming possibility that seems well on its way to becoming a reality.
A new competitor may enter the nearby scene as well with Twin River’s proposal to open a casino and hotel in Tiverton, Rhode Island, mere feet from Fall River, MA and only 30 minutes away. On Monday, Tiverton’s Town Council voted in favor of asking the state’s General Assembly to put a referendum on the ballot for next November seeking voter approval state-wide. State law requires voter approval to move a casino license or add table games, which Twin River plan to do with their Newport Grand casino license.
Although the Brockton developers have not threatened to impede the tribe’s progress, they have warned that others might. MGM Springfield is suing Connecticut to thwart what they call an unconstitutional pathway being taken by the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes there to build a casino specifically designed to take potential business from MGM, i.e. not lose customer base. MGM has also been in the news of late discussing plans to scale back their $800 million casino. The state’s sole slot parlor, Plainridge Park started out with a bang but has seen revenues fall nearly 30% since they opened in June. The casino is less than 20 miles from Taunton.
The Mashpee’s proposal earned approvals and ironed out revenue sharing and infrastructure agreements when it was pitched as a $500 million resort at full build out. Some question the ability of the tribe to secure financing for such a massive project in a New England market that may be approaching saturation by some estimates.
As presented, the development would be built in phases with an opening date of 2018 for the 150,000 sq ft casino, restaurants and bars, 10 retail outlets and some 5,000 parking spaces. Phase II (3.5-4 star hotel) would be completed in 24-30 months; Phase III, adding a mid-range hotel would be completed in 32-60 months, and the fourth phase would not be completed within 5 years of the start of construction.