If we were gambling folks, we would wager that there won’t be a casino built in Middleboro any time soon — or ever.
A series of setbacks has made it clear that Middleboro officials and the Wampanoag Indians who want to build a $1 billion casino complex over 500 acres have no special standing. Their plans are no more likely to come to fruition than gambling dreams in any other community in the state. In fact, the odds may be greater.
The setbacks have been increasingly crushing — a sharp contrast from a landmark town meeting two years ago that gave approval to a deal that would allow the Indians to build their casino in Middleboro.
Both top negotiators have departed the scene: Tribal Chairman Glenn Marshall to prison for embezzlement, and former Selectman Adam Bond back to the private sector (and “optimistically” saying the odds of a casino being built “are 50-50, at best.”)
The town already has collected $1 million in payments from the tribe and is still sitting on more than half of it, debating whether to spend it on needs directly related to a casino. Our advice is to sit tight for now. Spend some of it as needed, but don’t rush to spend any more money on casino needs when a casino is looking less likely each passing day.
A report commissioned by neighboring Halifax has questioned the Wampanoag tribe’s claim to historical ties to Middleboro. The U.S. Supreme Court also threw up a major obstacle in February, ruling that newly recognized tribes — which include the Wampanoags — have no right to “sovereign” land.
That has been the key to other tribes’ ability to build casinos, and after that ruling, the Indians’ financial backers turned off the cash spigot. Their reluctance to continue pouring money into the plans also may have had something to do with the lousy economy. Casinos across the country are reporting record drops in revenues and previously booming sites like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have laid off workers — something almost unheard of.
The state now holds most of the cards in the question of whether gambling halls will come to Massachusetts. The Wampanoags have no more special status than any other group — from race tracks to international investors — who want to build a casino, or at least a slot machine parlor.
There is no special incentive for the state to grant Middleboro a casino license. A casino is just as likely to be built in New Bedford, Raynham, Revere or western Massachusetts.
The Wampanoags rolled the dice, and haven’t come up craps quite yet, but they are more likely to end up with snake-eyes than a 7 or 11.
So the question I have is, what happens when you don't deliver to your Asian bankers? How will the Wampanoag and the elected officials benefiting from their campaign contributions pull them out of this mess?