More hitches in Massachusetts

By David McKee ~ March 21st, 2014 @ 9:58 am

martinjwalsh-headshotEfforts by Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun to bring casinos to eastern Massachusetts could be in trouble. In another hitch to its elongated selection process, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has agreed to consider whether to consider Boston a host community. It was evidently moved by a personal appearance from Beantown Mayor Martin J. Walsh. If the MGC assents to Walsh’s plea, voters get to decide the fate of the two casino proposals  – and it’s anybody’s ballgame at that point.

Walsh has moved off the old Thomas Menino talking point that the casinos would be in Boston. Rather, he argues, “Boston is the crucial component, the key selling point of the proposed gaming establishments.” (He’s obviously angling for a pound of flesh.) It’s hard to argue with him on that one. He’s playing Russian roulette, though, by wanting to hold referendums in East Boston — which already rejected one casino – and affluent Charlestown, whose burghers are also likely to be refuseniks.

Commissioners were vexed that Walsh waited untilthe day before Boston was going to be given surrounding-community status before intervening. Hizzoner’s delay could cost the state $85 million in licensing fees it had booked for the current fiscal year, if it causes the licensing process to drag past June 30. So now MGC members find themselves on the clock, thanks to the extra two weeks it will take them to study Walsh’s appeal.

MGM Springfield 3At the western end of the state, MGM Resorts International is going to find itself going to arbitration with Longmeadow and West Springfield. Talks with both towns failed to yield surrounding-community agreements. Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane dismissed MGM’s offer as inadequate but West Springfield Mayor Ed Sullivan was more conciliatory, telling reporters, “We had good discussions but in the end, we had to agree to disagree.” It’s not like MGM hasn’t been putting some six-figure offers on the table:

Agawam and Chicopee: $125K upfront and $150K annually.

Ludlow, East Longmeadow and Wilbraham: $50K upfront and $100K annually.

* Holyoke: $50K upfront, $85K annually, plus jobs.

Foxwoods Resort Casino CEO Scott “Woody” Butera blew off questions from Fall River Scott_Buteraresidents in order to be somewhere else, which probably wasn’t the best decision of his career. In his presentation to the city, he promised a casino with “3,000 slots and 90 table games, a 300-room hotel, entertainment, retail space and over 10 bars and restaurants.” That’s down from promises of 20 restaurants and 3,000-5,000 jobs. (The lower figures are probably tempered by realism.) “It’s not meant to look like a casino,” Butera said. “It will look like it’s been here 100 years.”

It was confirmed that New Harbour Mall is the site of the project (the worst-kept secret in gaming), meaning Foxwoods Massachusetts will have to allay concerns about a nearby elementary school. Officially, Foxwoods and Fall River have until July 23 to get their host-community agreement together and hold a referendum … but it’s not like the MGC doesn’t have other pressing business (see lead item) which could open the door to a postponement of the July 23 day of reckoning.

sbe entertainment continues to mobilize social media on behalf of SLS Las Vegas. Yesterday, it posted a list of eight things not to do in Las Vegas. It got in a plug for its own Griddle Cafe, but it also gave a shout-out to the Little Church of the West and warned against playing the super-tight slots at McCarran International Airport. It struck a surprisingly prudent tone for a brand associated with excess, so color us pleasantly surprised.

In an measure intended to allow disordered gamblers to save face, the New Jersey Assembly voted unanimously to allow Garden State citizens by self-excluding themselves from casinos without (as before) confessing to be problem gamblers. The bill has the support of the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling, in hopes of persuading more people to take charge of their problem. You still have to apply in person, however. You get your choice of a one-year, five-year or lifetime ban.

This is simply another option for those who want to exclude themselves from New Jersey’s gaming facilities, but don’t want to concede a problem on an official document they fear may come back to haunt them down the road. Gambling addiction is a disease, and if this can help some people overcome their problem, it’s a step in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D). S&G applauds the Assembly’s move.

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