Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Killed the Casino?

It's a sentiment that I've heard on the radio and read in the paper. Ten taxpayers have decided the fate of the entire city! How dare THEY decide what is right for the rest of us! Don't they know how many people needs JOBS? Don't they know how many are struggling to survive and stay in their homes? How dare they kill Fall River's last chance at jobs in this city!

Like I said, it's a sentiment that I've heard on the radio and read in the paper and it's plain bullshit.

The ten taxpayers did not kill the casino. Yes their lawsuit halted the land sale to the Wampanoags but really the only direct impact that has had is to deny the Redevelopment Authority of revenue it gets from land sales. For the RDA this is a real issue because they are in desperate need of the money but for the casino it's just one small little hurdle.

Now don't get me wrong I think what these 10 taxpayers have done is fantastic. I think they're heroes. I have major issues with taking land that only was transferred to the city and to the RDA with the stipulation that is not be used for a casino and then ignoring that and working around it. The argument is the stipulation would have been in place but the reality is if the land were to become sovereign land the stipulation wouldn't matter.

However, halting the land sale didn't kill the casino. Even if the sale of the land happened tomorrow you couldn't build on it. Casino gaming isn't legal in Massachusetts. That has to go back before the legislature and then back before the governor. And while I am hearing from some that it will come back before the legislature it doesn't mean it will pass. Even if it does pass a panel will have to select which proposals get a license. There is no guarantees at all that Fall River would be one of the ones selected.

Again the 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because it's not legal in Massachusetts and even if it were there is no guarantee Fall River would be one of the selected locations.

Of course the tribe also wanted to put the land into trust which would make it sovereign land. While this would certainly eliminate the problem of the it not being legal or the risk of not being selected Sovereign status is no guarantee either. The tribe has no direct connection to the land and such claims are said to get a low priority.

The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino because sovereign status was never a given and without the tribe can't build because it's not legal in Massachusetts and there is no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected locations.

Lastly, even if the land sale had gone through with all the other obstacles in the way it would be years, if ever, before a casino was built and operational. It would be years before they ever broke ground.

The 10 taxpayers didn't kill the casino, they simply added one more hurdle to the process. Maybe it will be the straw that broke that camel's back but overall it's a small hurdle compared to what the casino already faced. What the 10 taxpayers have done is given us an opportunity to take a breath and reassess. With Meditech building just over the Freetown line locating the Biopark in the north end makes more sense than ever. It is a project that can break ground almost immediately and one the whole region sees the benefits of. UMD's Chancellor McCormack still believes that the 300 acre site is the best location for the biopark. As for the casino, it's not dead. Mayor Flanagan is already talking to the Wampanoag's about alternate locations and considering that it's not yet legal we have time to do it right.

1 comment:

MiddleboroRemembers said...

What a pity those radio callers are so detached from reality!

1. Senator Rosenberg, the chief Senate Casino Guru who helped cram the grossly flawed legislation through the Senate has acknowledged publicly that it would require at least 18 months to establish the Bloated Regulatory Bureaucracy necessary to approve the first license.

After the Probation Dept. scandal, it might seem that taxpayers would be concerned about resolving matters such as that which effect the Commonwealth before creating another patronage haven.

2. License Approval
Most savvy states have a thorough process involving background checks and consideration of financial solvency that would reasonably require another year.

The Cowlitz Tribe submitted their application in 2002 and only recently were granted 'land in trust.' That's 8 years and they were qualified, which the Mashpee Wampanoags are not.

In other words, even were it possible for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to place land in trust to establish Slot Barns in Mashpee, Middleboro and Fall River, those radio callers will not receive instant gratification.

3. Revenues
Have any one of those callers asked what revenues will be returned to the City?

Should this land or the Tribe ever qualify under IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), where is the Agreement that the City has with the Tribe?

Once placed into Trust, the Tribe is Sovereign and under no obligation to pay anything.

The Town of Montville allowed town counsel to negotiate their agreement with the once wildly profitable Mohegan Sun and receive $500,000 per year.

(Readers might want to review the most recent SEC filing by Mohegan Sun. They are only required to do so because their debt is publicly traded. Their debt and obligations total $2.1 billion, with $1.2 billion due in 3 years. Moody's lowered their rating to "highly speculative.")

Even if those 10 taxpayers had not stepped forward to heroically stop Fall River's Folly, the Mashpee Wampanoags don't offer an immediate solution.

4. What might the existence of a Slot Barn in Fall River cost the City?

We know that crime increased 40% in Bangor, Maine after Hollywood Slots opened. What would that cost Fall River?

We know that Connecticut (which does not have 24/7 free alcohol) has experienced a massive increase in DUIs.

Yet Beacon Hill's flawed version would have allowed 24/7 free alcohol. What will that cost Fall River in terms of public safety - firemen and ambulance service?

If the Town of Palmer Study Committee determined that a Slot Barn would cost them between, was it $19 million to $39 million per year? where are the figures for Fall River?

It's easy to be blinded by glitter and flashing lights, but can we discuss sensible solutions and creating sustainable jobs that offer a future?