Mashpee Wampanoag tribal lands in Taunton and Mashpee, Massachusetts were officially declared a reservation by the U.S. Department of Interior on Friday. I know the expression is over-used, but I have to say it – it’s a game-changer for every New England State.
Sure, there will be local opposition. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will have their hands full with what to do. The Four-Phase plan will probably take years to get started with red-tape, law suits – you know, the usual Massachusetts casino politics. But in the end, it will happen.
Under the terms of a compact between then Governor Deval Patrick and the tribe, Massachusetts would not receive taxes from the tribal casino if there were two casinos in the region. However, without another casino in the state’s Region C, the Mashpee Wampanoag would be obligated to pay the commonwealth a 17 percent share in gaming revenue, making it a possibility that the last license will even be awarded.
Two weeks ago, all of New England’s casinos were gearing up for a battle for gamblers in the next two to four years. Plans were in place at each, ramping up its chance to counter-punch for more patrons’ loyalty.
“Project First Light Resort & Casino” changes everything.
There are four Alternatives for the Final Environmental Impact Report to consider. Alternative A, the Mashpee Wampanoag preferred version would include deveoping the 151-acre Project site in Taunton into a resort casino complex. The proposed phased development would include:
- an approximately 400,000 square-foot casino including 4,400 gaming positions,
- three 300- room hotels
- an events center
- fine dining, a 24 hour restaurant, an international buffet, and a food court
- retail stores
- a 25,000 square-foot water park
- a 4,486-space parking garage, and
- approximately 1,171 surface parking spaces.
Who should be concerned if built to Alternative A? Frankly, everyone – even good ole Steve-o Wynn!
Twin River Casino, Rhode Island (Lincoln & Tiverton if Newport is moved) – with eventually two hotels, Twin River raises it’s stock. But, TR depended a its table games and poker additions to counter-act CT casinos, Plainridge Park’s slot-box, and the possible casino in Brockton. With another Mega-Casino 20 minutes away with covered parking, more amenities, and a casino space similar in size, Twin River may have to entice more than Plainridge Park & CT table Game Players.
CT Casinos – Being the only mega-casinos in New England might have made Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods a little complacent. Only recently did both increase advertising, and raise the competitive bar. The Sun’s Earth Hotel will help convention business, and Foxwoods has more hotel room than they can fill. But competing with not one but two big casinos (Wynn & First Light) could cause further declines in revenue.
Brockton Casino – Will the MGC take a chance on another casino so close to First Light in Taunton? Taunton is big, but not CT big. And the revenue that Massachusetts could lose to the Wampanoag’s state agreement of a 17% share while hoping Brockton will make up the rest is a very big risk. The MGC has quite the decision to make concerning the last Region C casino License.
Wynn Everett – Wynn will make everyone else seem second class – that’s just how he does it. Brockton wasn’t a concern, and CT casinos won’t have a big effect on Boston area gamblers. (Quite the opposite, look out Foxwoods & Mohegan). But another mega-casino 20 minutes away, with different types of amenities (i.e., water park) could co-exist, catering to different clienteles. Both will suck up business out of Brockton, if built, and Plainridge Park. Still, Wynn won’t find itself alone on prosperity island and will have to take the Taunton casino (if Alternative A is built.)
Altenative B & C are scaled down options, and if the environmental report is not good, Alternative D is not being built at all. After all the Mashpee Wampanoags have been through to finally get federal recognition, something tells me a casino will be built somehow to go along with environmental standards.
The age of casino gambling in New England is about to arrive. Three industry big shots – Wynn, MGM, Penn National – and three tribal casinos of tremendous proportions. Let the fun begin!