Legal trouble for Mohegan, Foxwoods; The gospel according to Slammy

It looks as though the constitutionality of a no-bid, off-reservation casino for Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino may be an issue after all. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen issued an opinion that the legal risks with the unusual deal “are not insubstantial and cannot be mitigated with confidence.” Let’s face it, Connecticut lawmakers were so panicked by MGM Springfield — and by losing the 25% of slot revenue they get from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods — that they juiced the tribes into an arrangement of dubious constitutionality. Protecting the slot-revenue arrangement was of a higher priority than conducting an open process. The attorney general’s cautionary letter comes as the allied tribes had finally settled on a site, after much indecision, a defunct cineplex in East Windsor.

Now that the constitutional underpinnings of the deal are being knocked away (it was Gov. Dannel Malloy [D] who requested the opinion), legislators could leave Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun high and dry, since the enabling legislation is still pending. This is at least a preliminary victory for MGM Resorts International, which developed a sudden interest in the Bridgeport market when it looked like Connecticut was going to authorize a satellite casino to cut off revenue that was headed in Springfield‘s direction. (MGM’s covenant with Springfield keeps most of the state off-limits to the casino giant.)

* Elsewhere in New England, the status of fair-haired boy among Penn National Gaming‘s children no longer belongs to Plainridge Park. The racino was down 5% last month, in part due to less coin-in. The headline, though, is that Plainridge Park — while it grosses far above the industry average at $345/slot/pay — has fallen behind Hollywood Austintown, which wins $352/slot/day, making the latter the small-but-mighty star of Penn’s empire.

* Oscar Goodman‘s vision for Symphony Park in downtown Las Vegas, still largely fallow, either suffered a small death or was reborn today, depending on your perspective. “In a move that will allow the city of Las Vegas greater flexibility to work with additional developers interested in residential development at Symphony Park,” the city has agreed to the termination of its development agreement with Newland Communities. For a dollar, Newland gets to keep one, 3.3-acre parcel in return for releasing its rights to four others. Citing increased demand for downtown housing, Mayor Carolyn Goodman put the best possible spin on the change of direction. “Today, we are especially appreciative of Newland’s willingness to release residential development exclusivity and its claim to four parcels to allow us to work with other developers who have expressed interest in this premium site,” she said.

* While the odds look better for Las Vegas to land the [your city here] Raiders, it may be a case of the dog who caught the car he was chasing. What then? More specifically, how do you fill all those seats? The league has deemed the market “viable,” despite its small media footprint and other seeming handicaps (like a business plan that is contingent on putting tourists in one out of every three seats for Raider games). That’s 15,000 Buffalo Bills fans, say, you’d have to get on a transcontinental jet flight for the thrill of seeing their team — now with 100% less Rex Ryan — in action. “It’s truly amazing that anyone would buy that. It’s just silly,” Stanford University economics professor Roger Noll of the prospectus, which is tourist-focused, not predicated on forging local loyalty, as that of the NHL‘s Golden Knights is. The Knights have surpassed their season-ticket goals, having already put 13,000 local butts in T-Mobile Arena. Well, once the next hockey season starts, that is.

Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist adds that, now that the Chargers have bolted to Los Angeles to join the Los Angeles Rams, the potential draw from SoCal is lessened. The most authoritative view the Wall Street Journal could find in favor of the deal was über-fan Jack “Slammy” Brown, who said, “When the Raiders are winning, people will go to Antarctica to be at the game. They would to see the Alaska Raiders if they were kicking butt in the AFC West.”

That’s easy for Slammy to say, since he doesn’t bear the financial risk of the NFL-quality stadium that must be built — Sandoval’s Folly if it doesn’t attract an anchor tenant. Then again, the commissioner of Major League Soccer has just come out in favor of legalizing sports betting on a broad scale. Maybe you should give him a call, governor.

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