Increased Scrutiny and Litigation Pose Hurdles for Region C Casino Development in South-Eastern Massachusetts

Posted by: on Nov 13, 2019 | No Comments

casinos of interest to new millennials

The Region C casino license was the third and final destination casino property, legalised by the state of Massachusetts, in its 2011 Expanded Gaming Act. Under this act, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) had authorised three casinos in the designated state areas. The Encore Boston Harbor, which opened in June 2019, has a Region A license, while MGM Springfield debuted in August 2018 with a Region B license.

However, even after eight years, the Region C license, encompassing the south-eastern counties of Bristol, Nantucket, Dukes, Plymouth and Barnstable, still remain unclaimed. A horde of issues can be blamed for this. The lead contender for the license, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, has been grappling with issues associated with litigation, financial instability and federal land status. As a result, not only is the region losing money, it is also seeing a regional casino industry that is rapidly becoming oversaturated.

How Political Infighting Derailed the Project

In 2015, the US Interior Department granted the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sovereign land of 320 acres in Taunton, to build their casino on. The tribal leaders had planned to build a casino worth $1 billion on that land, which would have been opened in 2017. However, the US government, under President Trump, nullified the land grant decision, saying that the tribe didn’t come under the purview of federal jurisdiction when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed in 1934. As a result, the tribe had to resort to suing the federal government and continues to struggle with litigations.

Moreover, in May 2019, when the US House of Representatives passed a bill to provide federal recognition to the tribe, President Trump put a spoke in the wheel again. It still remains unclear whether the Senate will take up this issue again or not.

Meanwhile, the tribe is facing an enormous debt of $500 million to its backer, Genting Malaysia, which is in no mood to provide further loans for the project.

Will Bureaucratic Hurdles Continue to Hound Casino Development?

So, does this mean that the MGC is looking at other builders? Not so fervently, it seems. In January 2019, the MGC stated that all efforts to provide a Region C verdict would be postponed till the newly appointed Chair, Cathy Judd-Stein, became familiar with the situation. Only by June 2019 did it consider revisiting the Region C license bidding, after Mass Gaming & Entertainment petitioned for the reconsideration of its application for the license, which was rejected in 2016.

The Brockton Fairgrounds casino proposal might have met an untimely demise in September 2019, but other casino operators are ready with their own proposals. These proposals, however, require a change in the 2011 gaming law, which allows only one-slot parlour licenses and one-full casino license to each of the three regions.

The Notos Group in Wareham wants to build a $300 million slots parlour in Region C, which would require legislative approval. Penn National Gaming hopes to add table games to the Plain Ridge slots parlour, which will also require regulatory approval.

Regional Economy Bears the Brunt

With lawmakers unable to reach a decision regarding the fate of the delayed project, the state of Massachusetts loses money every day, as its residents have to go across state borders to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, or Tiverton Casino Hotel in Rhode Island, for their entertainment needs.

When the commission rejected the Brockton Fairgrounds proposal in September 2019, on the grounds that a tribal casino is still a possibility, it didn’t consider the decline of manufacturing jobs in Brockton and how the area needs revenue and job creation for development.

Brockton Fairgrounds MG&E, backed by Rush Street Gaming, had proposed a $700 million project, which was “ready for construction.” The developer had promised 2,000 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs, leading to $13 million in revenues per year for Brockton.

The fate of the tribal casino remains undecided, and by all means might not be clear even till 2021. Before that, if a new US president takes office in 2020, the project might well be looking at further uncertainties.

Leave a Reply