East Coast escalation; A modest reprieve

By David McKee ~ January 18th, 2011 @ 10:00 am

While I’ve been sorting through the sordid life of Allen R. Glick, things have been heating up back east with regard to casino expansion. A Tuesday-morning dispatch from the analysts at J.P. Morgan ran down the salient developments. First, in Massachusetts

Gov. Deval Patrick (D), in an interview with The Republican, signaled that he’s willing to compromise with the Legislature this time around. Last year, his no-racinos stance ultimately scuttled a bill that lawmakers had hammered out at great length. The one currently making the rounds of Beacon Hill is much closer to what Patrick envisioned, prescribing one resort casino for the western part of Massachusetts, one for the coastal region and one in the middle. However, the state’s tracks have a powerful ally in House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D, above) and, if DeLeo senses newfound flexibility in Patrick, he’s certain to press their case.

Not to be left behind by the introduction of table games to Pennsylvania and slot machines to Maryland, lawmakers in Delaware are pushing for two new casinos. The brainchild of House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf (D), the bill would put one casino apiece in Sussex County and New Castle County. The exact locations would be decided upon by a state-level board. The last time somebody tried something like that, Philadelphia wound up with two casino sites on the Delaware River and nobody at the local level was any too thrilled. As Delaware’s bill moves forward, perhaps legislators will learn from the Keystone State’s mistake. (Kansas lets these issues get hashed out by the counties themselves.)

Gone but not forgotten is the notion of adding six racinos, four riverboats and a Chicago land-based casino to the great state of Illinois. Great, that is, unless you’re trying to make a living in the casino biz. Undeterred by failure in the lame-duck session, state Rep. Lou Lang (D, left) is back to try and dilute the state’s desperately strapped casino industry still further. Since gaming revenues have fallen to abysmal levels in Illinois, expect loud and desperate opposition to Lang’s kamikaze economics.

A rainy winter in the Southwest has bought time for Las Vegas. According to The Arizona Republic, water levels in Lake Mead are up five feet, forestalling water rationing … until 2015, anyway. Last fall, Lake Mead’s surface had fallen to seven feet above the point where emergency measures would have to be instituted. Don’t let the happy-talk local papers fool you: Lake Mead is still at least 125 feet below its 1999 level, an alarming 40% of capacity. Of course, to the hear the most powerful person in the Silver State — Southern Nevada Water Authority f├╝hrer Pat Mulroy — tell it, we don’t need no stinking rationing … just more giant pipelines to suck other people’s aquifers dry. (Thanks to reader Greg Askins for the tip.)

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