Ballot Question #1 in Massachusetts

The first of the Commonwealth’s four ballot questions for 2016 would allow the opening of another slots parlor at Suffolk Downs. In particular, the initiative would allow the state Gaming Commission to issue one additional category 2 (slots) license to a gaming establishment located on property that is (i) at least four acres in size; (ii) adjacent to and within 1,500 feet of a race track, including the track’s additional facilities, such as the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, amphitheater, and bleachers; (iii) where a horse racing meeting may physically be held; (iv) where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted; and (v) not separated from the race track by a highway or railway. In other words, Suffolk Downs.

I would vote NO on this question.

For those of you remember, near the end of Governor Patrick’s administration, the Governor pushed for and signed an Expanded Gaming bill, Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011, which the Governor was clearly hoping would be a cash cow for the Commonwealth.[1] Among other things the bill authorized the licensing of three casinos and one slot parlor. Each Casino licenses required a capital investment of not less than $500 million, and the slot parlor license (at Plainridge Park) required an investment of not less than $125 million. In addition, licensing fees for the casinos and the slots parlor were going to be $85 million and $25 million respectively. Operating casinos would be required to pay a 25% tax on daily gross gaming revenue, and the slot parlor would have to pay a 40% tax on daily gross gaming revenue, plus a 9% of their gross gaming revenues to the Massachusetts Race Horse Development Fund. The bill established almost a dozen funds to receive, transfer and disburse the anticipated financial windfall.

How do I know this? Because I had to do a section-by-section summary of this bill at the time that it came out.

So, how’ve things been going since then?

Answer: not so good.

The slot parlor at Plainridge Park in Plainville has opened, and the MGM Springfield is under development (slated to open in 2018). The Wynn Boston Harbor development in Everett has been the subject of immense legal wrangling, and there is yet no timetable on its completion.

In addition, two Indian tribes have jumped into the fray: the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hopes to open a casino on land in Taunton, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head plans a small gaming facility in Aquinnah, on Martha’s Vineyard.[2]

Now comes this independent proposal to put more slots at Suffolk Downs. Who wants this? Eugene McCain, that’s who. (And no, I’d never heard of him either.) This is apparently an enigmatic developer who developed luxury resorts in Thailand, high end properties on the big island of Hawaii, and who studied meditation to become a Buddhist. That’s an interesting background, but it doesn’t necessarily make him qualified to run a slots parlor, especially considering that he has “filed personal bankruptcy years ago, refuses to name his fellow investors, and his plans have been criticized as amateurish and sloppy,” (according to the Boston Globe).

“This proposal is so bad it even has the wrong address in the local referendum,” according to Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, “apparently because the proponents attempted to locate the site using Google Maps.” The Globe also noted that McCain was going to be facing a legal challenge from developer Steve Wynn.

Enough said. We don’t need another slot parlor in Massachusetts.

[1] Since the Governor felt boxed in on raising taxes, expanded gaming and the revenues it would generate was one sure fire way, it seemed, to generate more funding for the Commonwealth.

[2] Neither of these two projects are covered by the Expanded Gaming statute. Instead they are authorized under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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