Massachusetts governor proposes bidding for three casino licenses

September 18, 2007 5:17 AM
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Long before expanded gaming was moved to the front burner in Massachusetts, Sheldon Adelson, a Bay State native who found his fame and fortune in Las Vegas, knew exactly what route to take to acquire a casino license.

He went right to the top”¦the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick.

Monday, Patrick announced his decision on casinos: Let the Bon Temps Roulez!

Not that it guarantees Adelson a license. He will have to bid for one just as everyone else interested in joining the Massachusetts gaming parade will have to do.

That includes the state’s horse and dog tracks which have been fighting for slot machines for the past decade.

It also includes the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians who thought they were on easy street after finally winning a favorable decision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that recognized the tribe as a legitimate entity.

Anyone looking to win one of the three licenses to be granted under Patrick’s proposal will have to have deep pockets. The state expects to generate "hundreds of millions of dollars" from the license bidding plan and is looking at a potential of between $400 million and $500 million in taxes yearly.

Patrick’s plan calls for one casino to be located in southeastern Massachusetts, that would coincide with the Wampanoag’s plans; one to the west, that could include Adelson’s preferred location of Marlboro, or the Palmer location presented by the Mohegun Sun tribe of Connecticut, and one in the Greater Boston area. The latter location might be perfect for Richard Fields and his plan for the development of Suffolk Downs which sits on the border between East Boston and Revere.

Patrick said he believes casinos would generate more than $2 billion annually and create "good jobs and good wages," when they begin operating in 2012.

"With that kind of economic benefit," Patrick said, "we cannot reject the gaming industry out of hand. Destination resort casinos (a phrase favored by Adelson and his plan for a multi-billion gaming/entertainment complex) can serve a useful role in our overall economic plan."

Forgetaboudit, said Daniel Bosley, co-chairman of the Legislature’s economic development committee.

"I’m profoundly disappointed in the governor. If you look at the cost-benefit analysis, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The revenues aren’t real," he was quoted as saying.

Also to be heard from is House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who has consistently opposed gambling expansion of any sort. However, in recent days, he reportedly has said he would keep an open mind on the governor’s proposal.

Listening loudly will be Las Vegans Bill Paulos and Bill Wortman. They have an option to buy Rockingham Park, located in the New Hampshire border town of Salem. Any move in Massachusetts to expand gambling probably would motivate New Hampshire legislators to do something similar or at least go along with the track and provide slot machines.

Where’s the money?

Meanwhile, the IRS wants to know just what happened to the $13 million a Detroit real estate developer gave the Wampanoags in their mission to gain federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Strather reportedly gave the money to tainted former tribal chairman Glenn Marshall, who resigned recently after admitting lying about his past. When questioned Marshall has said he hired genealogists and anthropologists to detail the tribe’s history and to hire lawyers to argue their case in Washington, D.C.

Last year, a dissident group of tribal members sued the tribal council asking that certain financial documents be released.

Recently, according to a tribal spokeswoman, federal agents have sought the tribe’s records as part of their investigation of the missing money.

Hong Kong says NO

Tourist competition may be coming from Shanghai and Macau but Hong Kong says it will not use gambling to attract more people.

According to reports of a speech made last Friday, Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma acknowledged that Macau has seen phenomenal growth because of the addition of casinos.

He also recognized that Singapore has approved the development of two major casino complexes and that both Macau and Singapore post a challenge to Hong Kong.

But, he said, the Hong Kong government would not consider building casinos to compete.

"The government doesn’t think it would help the tourism industry if Hong Kong built one or two casinos because Macau has many casinos like Las Vegas," he said.

The news was well-received by both Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) and Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN), whose publicly-traded shares benefited on Monday.

THE INSIDER: New York Republicans have served notice that the plan, submitted by Democrat Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to award the racing franchise to the New York Racing Association, will be amended before being approved.

Progressive Gaming International Corp. (PGIC) and Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL) have agreed to postpone the exclusive agreement relative to the sale of certain table games until Sept. 24.

The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team has appealed Pittsburgh’s decision to approve steel and foundation plans for the slots casino being planned by Don Barden and his Majestic Star Casino.

Morgan Joseph gaming analysts have upgraded the shares of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) from hold to buy.

Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI) has agreed to repurchase $6 million of the company’s common stock from Robert Luciano, chief technology officer of the company.

With a gaming movement developing in Massachusetts, Lincoln, R.I., home of a slots casino called Twin River, is planning a referendum in November asking the voters to give their preference relative to addition of table games at the slots emporium.

Melco International Development Ltd., a partner in Macau casino operator Melco PBL Entertainment (MPEL), reported a net profit of $36.5 million for the first six months of this fiscal year.

Michael L. Knapp has been named general manager of the International Racing Group operated by Youbet.com Inc. (UBET).

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK) has named Kim Townsend to the newly-created position of CEO of its development in Atlantic City, N.J.

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) has named Anthony Campbell as a new independent director on its board of directors.

FortuNet Inc. (FNET) says it expects third quarter earnings of between $0.07 and $0.09 per share compared to $0.05 per share a year ago.

Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) says its purchase of Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track in Fort Washington, Md., is expected to close in the fourth quarter.