Taunton Casino Rendering for Mashpee Wampanoags Proposal
The Boston Globe reported last week that the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe appear to be making significant progress in its quest to secure land in Massachusetts to build a Las Vegas-style casino.
We’ve been hearing about this on-again, off-again casino for three years, but it now seems closer than ever to fruition.
Proposed Brockton Casino
The federal government recently informed the tribe in a letter that a decision in their case is imminent. The tribe needs the federal government to help them convert 150 acres of land into a reservation, which would allow for the casino to be built under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The tribe wants to build a $500 million casino in Taunton, which is in the Southeastern part of the state. But, Brockton also is competing for the SE license in Region C.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs seems confused on what exactly it’s communications to the Mashpee Wampanoags means.
the tribe’s request is under review
they are inviting comments for a 30-day period on the tribe’s request to issue a reservation proclamation
no date has been identified in which a reservation proclamation will be issued by the Department of the Interior
issuance of a reservation proclamation is a separate and distinct action from acquiring land in trust…”
It seems the important part is that a reservation proclamation would allow the tribe to construct a casino in Taunton if the land has been turned into a trust.
“This letter to the City of Taunton is an indication that the Interior Department is one step closer to making a final decision on our full application,” tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a press release regarding the letter. But the letter refers to looking into the trust, not deciding on it.
Estele C. Borges, president of Taunton’s City Council, said that the council and the City of Taunton have already responded when more than 60 percent of city residents voted in favor of a casino to be constructed in Taunton. So the BIA seems to have the last say.
What will this mean to Brockton? It seems that two casinos in Region C, so close to Rhode Island Casinos and the new Plainridge slots joint may add to the saturation problem. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission did refer to the fact that neither Brockton or the then alive New Bedford proposal might not see a casino. It might depend solely on the BIA’s decision with the Mashpee Wampanoags casino in Taunton.
In a surprising change in the Massachusetts Gaming Expansion, the New Bedford waterside casino complex is no more. The developers have forced KG Urban to take their application off the table, and the southeast license, Region C, now only has one suitor in Brockton.
Well, duh, you see, it takes financial backing to build a casino, and when your financial backers pull out, there is no casino to be built. Simple, right?
What it was supposed to look like.
In its letter to the state Gaming Commission, KG Urban, said investors proved unconvinced the venture would work in an increasingly competitive environment. Let me put this in layman’s terms – New England’s casino market is saturated and being hyper-competitive, especially in the eastern part of Massachusetts bordering CT & RI.
In an article I think connected to KG Urban’s investors concerns, Howard Stutz wrote that “Moody’s Investors Service said the casino industry’s cash flow prospects could climb as much as 4 percent over next 12 to 18 months……18 U.S. states with casinos reported a 4.1 percent increase in monthly gaming revenue during May, following a 4 percent increase in April. In May, every state but New Jersey and Connecticut saw improvement. With these numbers in hand, the advisory firm changed its overall outlook of the U.S. gaming industry from a negative to a stable rating.”
You see, gambling is on the rise everywhere – but not necessarily here in New England. Maine is experiencing a lull and decline with it’s two small casinos having run the entire state, New Hampshire, and borders on Canada. The key in the above statement by Moody’s is that the northeast isn’t improving like the rest of the nation – “every state but New Jersey and Connecticut saw improvement.” Rhode Island’s statistics are not reported as in other states, but this area in New England (Eastern CT, RI, Southeast MA) is not destined for such a rise in revenue. The two exceptions in the northeast are New York State and Pennsylvania (which has shown a slight resurgence in the last months after a couple of years in decline.)
By the way, building a big modern casino doesn’t mean people will flock to it and make it their new gambling destination. The proof in the east can be spelled with 5 letters: R-E-V-E-L!
Here are a few facts that changed the New Bedford backers minds:
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is still looking to build casino resort in Taunton.
Mass Gaming & Entertainment, the developers proposing Brockton casinos, are still pledging to remain in the hunt for a casino.
Connecticut and Rhode Island have both discussed the potential of expanding their existing casino industries. And while she was against it all along, it makes sense that Attorney General Maura Healey cautioned the Massachusetts Gaming Commission about the threat of an over-saturated gaming market.
And now a few side rants to get off my chest related to the whole thing:
Stephen Crosby of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission seems so naive to think that this process would be so simple – pick four casinos, build them quickly like Legoland, and take the rest of New England’s money with just a whimper and a white flag from the other states?
One newspaper article I read accused Foxwoods of failing on this deal, which is completely false. Consider Foxwoods a subcontractor for the job – only the job never materialized!
Palmer Casino Proposal
Finally, another jab at the MGC plan. Brockton is similar to Palmer, Mass in economic need and instability. Both are tired old mill towns trying to reinvent itself, like so many towns in New England. Mohegan Sun’s casino proposal in Palmer was denied by the MGC, instead choosing MGM in Springfield. Now Springfield won’t see it happen until late 2018 or even later, while I’m sure the Palmer casino would have already been started and would have been competing and drawing with both New York State and Connecticut, and bringing the state of Massachusetts revenue earlier than 2018.
So far, Massachusetts has a “box of slots” (as MGM Muren calls them) working well to bring in the casino revenue to Massachusetts, and stalled projects all over the state. I end by quoting from the Broadway show “Wicked.” The now famous song “Defying Gravity” begins with Elphaba and Glinda saying to each other “I hope you’re happy – I hope you’re happy, now!”