There was a local story in Massachusetts last week about a proposed Casino in Brockton that was voted down by the Gaming Commission. Some of it was about the competition from the Mashpee Wampanoag, who are building a local tribal casino in Taunton.
What is clear is that when Massachusetts enacted their big gaming law in 2011 they expected this to become a cash cow. We know this because they set up no fewer than 15 funds in the legislation, which were expected to finance various areas of government, from community colleges to transportation infrastructure and development to mitigating the damages from a gambling addiction. The 2011 bill authorized the licensing of three casinos and one slot parlor; casino licenses would require a capital investment of not less than $500 million, while slot parlor licenses would require not less than $125 million; casinos would be required to pay a 25% tax on daily gross gaming revenue, and slot parlors 40% tax on their daily gross gaming revenue. A lot of money was supposed to come in.
Part of the idea was to recoup some of the revenue from all the citizens of Massachusetts who had been regularly going down to Connecticut to play at their tribal casinos, something which had been going on for years. Native Americans finally caught a legal break after about 484 years, when the United States Supreme Court decided the unanimous case of Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373 (1976), in which they ruled that the various 50 states had neither the right to tax or regulate Native Americans on their own reservations. That led to Native Americans creating bingo parlors, and eventually full fledged gaming. And tribes in Connecticut opened the Foxwoods Resort Casino in 1992 (Mashantucket Pequot Tribe) and the Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino in 1996 (Mohegan Tribe and a South African conglomerate). As has been noted by other commentators, the success of both casinos is due in no small part to their location roughly halfway between New York City and Boston.
Of course, the casino business is far from a sure thing. There are 29 casinos just in Las Vegas that never opened in the last couple of decades. There are seven casinos that have closed in New Jersey in that same time span – including two owned by Donald Trump – and another twelve that have also been cancelled.
Clearly we’ve reached a saturation point with casinos, and Massachusetts has come very late to the fair. I don’t think the Commonwealth is going to pocket half of the revenue that the Deval Patrick administration was counting on when they championed casinos here in Massachusetts. And let’s remember that casinos are primarily a tax on poor people. Oh sure, they let themselves be taxed voluntarily, but the net effect is the same.
Sometimes you just reach a saturation point, and I think we’re there with casinos. And also with McDonalds. I heard a story recently on the radio about how McDonalds was concerned because they were no longer growing in the United States. But how can they continue to grow when there is at least one McDonald’s in just about every town in the United States? Sometimes it’s enough. There is no more room to grow. McDonalds can still grow in countries like China, and also grow the bellies of the people in countries like China, but here, their growth may be done with.
So good luck McDonalds, and good luck casinos, and good luck people counting on casino revenues. We’re going to be stuck with both for a long time to come, but at least we don’t have to have too many more of them.
 Whatever happened to that guy Donald Trump? Oh, now I remember: this loser is running for the Presidency of the United States!