Wow, that sentence even impressed me. But we aren’t talking about real war, it’s an economic war on – The Great New England Casino War.
Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island may be the first hotbed of casino competition. The first Massachusetts attack from PlainRidge Park is being met by the only Rhode Island adversary of any consequence – Twin River Casino. Not only is Twin River a short drive away from the Mass border (of course, every place in Rhode Island is a short drive from the Mass border, as well as the CT border), but they are moving their new brigade up to Tiverton, “spittin’ distance from Massachusetts.
A flashy new casino with more than 1,000 slot machines and dozens of blackjack and roulette tables might soon replace a scrubby little patch of land there, just 380 feet from the Massachusetts state line. Some say the would-be developer picked this small Rhode Island town bordering Fall River because a casino here could draw gamblers away from Massachusetts and perhaps even prompt the state to abandon its own plans to license a casino in Brockton or New Bedford.
“A casino on the Tiverton line would obviously hinder the success of a casino in New Bedford,” Fall River Mayor C. Samuel Sutter said. “And it would rely mostly on Massachusetts customers with very little benefit to Massachusetts.” New Bedford & Tiverton are only 20 minutes apart.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission member, Gayle Cameron, had expressed doubts about whether Southeastern Massachusetts had enough gambling demand to support a casino, even before Twin River Management began promoting its plan at Tiverton town hall, saying that for years, the MGC has heard dire predictions that Massachusetts could lose market share to casinos more quickly developed in neighboring states.
“First it was New Hampshire, then Connecticut, now Rhode Island,” she said. “We never know what’s real and what’s not…..the commission should evaluate the proposals for Southeastern Massachusetts casinos without being distracted by what’s happening in Tiverton……When the time comes for Southeastern Massachusetts, we’ll do a market analysis to help us decide.”
Tiverton isn’t a done deal, however. Twin River owners still need to have a “comprehensive dialogue” with the residents of Tiverton first to see if they are open to developing a project that is appropriate for the community. Without the community’s backing, it won’t happen.
Scott MacKay of Rhode Island Public Radio gave interesting commentary in his article “A Necessary Evil?” He said that he feels it wrong for government to urge citizens to gamble. MacKay considers the whole idea “…runs up against the distinctly New England work ethic. It also preys on the weak who become addicted to gambling and the collateral damage of fractured families and lives destroyed by the over indulgence in a get-rich-quick attitude.” But Scott also comments “there is very little that Rhode Island can do to stop citizens from plopping their dollars into the slots or on a blackjack table. A state that you can drive across in 45 minutes without breaking the speed limit will never keep its citizens from spending their gambling money elsewhere.” For a state that relies on gambling revenue as the third-largest source, Rhode Island needs to look long term. It’s not necessarily the “evil” or the revenue it brings, but the void of it which carries much so much weight for states that that rely on gaming revenue for their state budget.
In much the same way, Connecticut must consider not what positives and negatives a satellite casino brings, but what the void will cause in competition and jobs lost to NY, MA, RI and beyond – even NJ which is entertaining thoughts of a new casino outside NYC in the Meadowlands area.
That’s all for now.