The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (“MGC”) hosted a community meeting on March 1, 2016 to hear public input regarding Mass Gaming & Entertainment, LLC’s proposal to build a $677 million commercial casino in Brockton. As expected, it got rowdy. Supporters cheered at Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter’s demand to bring casino jobs to Brockton families, and opponents argued that casinos worsen the local economy by enticing those who cannot afford to gamble.
The March 1 hearing allowed the MGC to gauge local support for a casino, but a lingering consideration for the MGC is whether a commercial casino in Brockton can thrive in a location so close to a slots parlor in Plainville and a tribal casino in East Taunton. Particularly a tribal casino that is being built by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in partnership with Genting that is referred to as “the Taj Mahal of New England casinos.”
The MGC had originally planned to issue a decision on Mass Gaming & Entertainment’s application for a commercial license on March 31. However, the MGC decided to delay its decision until the end of April to have a chance to hear directly from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Mass Gaming & Entertainment.
On March 15, the MGC hosted an open meeting to hear from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. At that meeting, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe outlined the progress of their Project First Light resort-casino development in East Taunton. On March 28, the MGC will hold its final meeting to discuss Mass Gaming & Entertainment’s proposed casino.
To recap, in 2015, the federal government approved a land into trust application, transferring land in both Mashpee and Taunton into trust for the benefit of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The tribe is now seeking to build a resort casino in East Taunton.
Spectrum Gaming, a consultant for the MGC, completed a state study in 2008 and warned that having a tribal casino competing with a state-licensed casino “would have potentially disastrous effects” on the state-licensed casino’s revenue. Under the tribe-state compact, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe pays 17 percent of gross gambling revenues to the state if there is no competing gambling establishment in the region. However, if there is competition, the tribe pays nothing at all to the state. Consequently, if the Brockton casino is approved, the tribal casino can use its tax savings to make a more attractive customer experience at its casino.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe recently sent a letter to the MGC in March threatening to sue the MGC if the MGC granted a commercial license to Mass Gaming & Entertainment. Mass Gaming & Entertainment seems unfazed by the naysayers. Mass Gaming & Entertainment continues to pursue its application in light of what it sees as an uncertain future for the tribal casino. A group of East Taunton residents recently filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the land into trust decision. This suit could potentially tie up the tribal casino for years. And in the meantime, Mass Gaming & Entertainment does not want to be sidelined, and so it presses on.