Native American casinos in Maine took a step toward realization when the lower house of the Legislature rescued pro-casino bills from seeming death in the Veterans & Legal Affairs Committee. The legislation “would allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe to build a casino in Washington County and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to operate one in Aroostook County.” There were valid points to be made on both sides of the debate. As state Rep. Madonna Soctomah, whose constituency includes the Passamaquoddy Tribe and has been advocating tribal gaming for two decades, argued, tribes have been held to a different standard than private-sector casino developers. But there was also truth in Rep. Louis Luchini‘s characterization of the legislation as “are a continuation of our state’s fragmented and disorganized approach to gaming policy.”
For perhaps the first time ever, Penn National Gaming and Churchill Downs (each of which owns a Maine casino) found themselvesin common cause, opposing the expansion of gambling to tribal lands. Replied Soctomah, “We only ask that we be given the same opportunity.”
In related business, the House kept alive a bill to transform Scarborough Downs into a racino, pending local approval. “”If we continue to say ‘yes’ to jobs — but ‘not those jobs’ — we continue to show businesses around the country that we might like jobs, but not like theirs,” said Rep. Wayne Parry (right) of the pro-slots measure. Scarborough Downs President Sharon Terry characterized the bill as a life-or-death measure for the harness-racing track. It would sidestep the requirement of a statewide referendum — but would also conflict with existing law that requires 100 miles of separation between existing casinos. Scarborough voters have a decade-long history of voting down slots.
China dealt a severe blow to the hopes of Big Gaming this week, declaring the island of Hainan off-limits for gambling. “We cannot at all allow Hainan to operate casinos,” declared resident Communist Party strongman Luo Baoming. This cannot have been well received in the offices of Caesars Entertainment, which hoped to open a Hainan resort this year, or to MGM Resorts International, which already runs MGM Grand Sanya on Hainan’s scenic shores. How big a prize is Hainan? It’s home to a seemingly unimaginable 200 hotels and “has been a huge draw for domestic tourists with more than 22 million overnight stays registered in Hainan in the first eight months of 2013.” MGM and Caesars must be feeling like slot players whose big jackpot was just invalidated.
In a late-breaking story, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has put Dirk Arthur’s Wild Magic — which plays Harrah’s Reno and Harrah’s Laughlin — on notice for animal cruelty. According to The Associated Press, the show received a citation in December and formal warning a month later. Arthur’s been cited “for Continued >>
“Don’t bring me a slot machine and tell me it’s a horse.” — Nebraska state Sen. Dave Bloomfield, stating his opposition to VLT “instant racing” at Cornhusker State racetracks.