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$3m Mass. lobbying effort fails

January 24, 2011 4:45 PM by Ray Poirier

Suffolk DownsSuffolk Downs, the real-estate rich thoroughbred race track that is just a stone’s throw from Boston’s Logan Airport, wants a casino license and didn’t hesitate to spend a big chuck of money to let people know just how important it would be to the area’s economy.

Owner Sterling Suffolk Racecourse spent upwards of $850,000 in its fruitless effort to convince Massachusetts lawmakers that it would be in their best interests to pass casino legislation.

The company wasn’t alone in the effort. According to a review by the Associated Press, more than $3 million was spent in lobbying efforts in 2010. That is up from $2.5 million in 2009.

Unfortunately for the casino interests, legislative leaders couldn’t agree with Gov. Deval Patrick that the commonwealth would be better off just having three or four casinos and no so-called racinos.

Although some lawmakers favored slot machines for Suffolk Downs, as well as for Wonderland Park, and Raynham Park, a pair of closed greyhound racing facilities, and Plainridge, a harness track in the western part of the state, Suffolk Downs wanted a full-fledge casino.

With 163 acres available on popular Route 1A, Suffolk could accommodate a Las Vegas-styled resort casino with a hotel and retail facilities adjoining.

And, the construction and operation of such a complex would mean jobs, say Suffolk Downs leaders.

"Along with others seeking to increase jobs and growth in this business sector," said Bill Mulrow, chairman of Suffolk’s board, "we worked this past year to educate the public about the economic and fiscal benefits of resort-style casino and the figures released today show that commitment."

Suffolk Downs wasn’t alone in its lobbying efforts. Sheldon Adelson, a former Massachusetts businessman, plunked down some $180,000 to show his interest in a casino license for his Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Another firm called Las Vegas-based Development Associates LLC spent $315,000 while the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe shelled out more than $155,000 in its lobbying efforts.

Although casino gambling has not yet surfaced on any legislative agenda, it is expected to emerge once again sometime during the current legislative session. That’s when the lobbyists will find out how well they spent their money.

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A group of Massachusetts residents is challenging the federal government’s decision to grant the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe reservation lands to build a casino.

A plan to let New Jersey voters decide in November whether to authorize two new casinos in the northern part of the state is moving forward in the Legislature.

Missouri lawmakers are debating whether to regulate fantasy sports like gambling. Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick is proposing to exempt fantasy sports from gambling regulations because players rely on skill, not chance. 

Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, N.Y., will open in 2017, according to its builders who have promised an “aggressive construction schedule.” The casino will have 1,150 slot machines, 63 gaming tables and a 163-room hotel.

The owners of northwestern Indiana’s Majestic Star Casino are moving ahead with plans to replace its aging casino riverboats with a land-based gambling facility now permitted under state law.

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