Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deal cut & Gov’s latest scheme to circumvent no-patronage and no-bid contract pledges

"My objection there was that those were no-bid contracts," Patrick is reported as saying in the Boston Herald. "I am not going to support no-bid contracts. That’s not going to change."  That’s plain malarkey and misdirection, again, from Governor “too slick for it to stick” Patrick.

This is clearly just a play with words and another hollow pledge like his continually broken promise to not take money or have meetings with casino lobbyists.  Patrick’s new pledge and his assertion that oversight would be “above politics” will be null and void with his reported “closed door” deal struck with Indian gaming and slots lobbyists for tribal preference carve out.  You’ll note the Governor says only “one competitively bid slot parlor” while keeping the door open for multiple racetrack slots.  Anyone following these shenanigans knows this is simply code that some deal has been cut between the Governor and Senate President Therese Murray with Speaker DeLeo. 

You see Deval Patrick  and Therese Murray wanted a set aside for the Wampanoag (and thus his pal Doug Rubin and the slot machine companies whose lobbyists funnel cash to Patrick for his higher office political ambitions) who are now dealing with the Raynham Racetrack with their Malaysian financial backers.  To quote Therese Murray – “Ca-ching!”  Because, this likely takes care of Speaker DeLeo’s Suffolk Downs constituents but really means no-bid contracts and nothing but patronage for Cedric Cromwell’s gang on the South Shore while the Governor can still pay-off his promises to Rubin and the other lobbyists whose companies and off-shore interests benefit from this deal.
Patrick claims, "We need appointees who are above politics, whose ethics rules are even more rigorous than the reformed rules we put in place a couple of years ago. I think they need to be adequately compensated. I think they need to have appropriate oversight -- independent, yet appropriate oversight."

Yet, this or any de facto tribal preference setting aside “slot parlors” for racetracks or any Indian gaming in Massachusetts would be out of the purview of any state established oversight.  Further, the concept of any set-aside or preference negates the principal of “no bid” contracts for any Massachusetts gaming operation.  By setting aside “slots in boxes” for racetracks or other operations by tribal gaming groups, the governor guarantees no competition for gaming on those or nearby potential properties.  So what will it be Governor?  Will we be reading in the Globe or Herald again, like with your repeated casino lobbyist contributions and meetings, that this pledge is broken?  The problem is another too cute for school trick of words here by the Governor as the assurance is meaningless from the start.

Even the dimwitted Scott Harshbarger sees through these schemes noting, “The secret, ongoing negotiating sessions” among the governor and legislative leaders.  Harshbarger added, “Legislative leaders and the governor need to have this debate in the light of day and must openly address the many issues that have changed since the last true analysis of casino impacts was done - from economic costs and benefits to public safety, law enforcement and regulatory structures.  Ramming through a misguided proposal with little true debate will only worsen public mistrust in state government.”

We’re told gaming is a done deal in Massachusetts so we should just shut up and take it.  Why should we be forced to take the worse deal?  Will this “done deal” plan will be presented and rammed through the legislature without even as much as an evaluation of its downsides when compared to a simple, fully competitive and open opportunity to get the best possible deal for the state and people alike?  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Please answer three simple questions before finalizing gaming legislation.

There are many critical questions members of the Joint Committee and our elected officials need to ask and get credibly answered before a finalized Massachusetts casino legislation package is presented as a done deal in September.  For those who are going to vote for such legislation this includes asking who benefits from any special interest carve outs, such as the tribal preference scheme desired by Governor Patrick, Therese Murray and the lobbyists for slot machine companies and foreign investors behind Indian casinos.  In 2010 these groups spent $3 million lobbying Massachusetts politicians and another $1.3 million in the first half of 2011 – of which they funneled $254,000 in campaign contributions to our elected officials so they must have something big at stake which they want included in this legislation.

To keep it simple, let’s just ask them to answer three basic questions.  Questions apparently Governor Patrick’s casino henchmen Greg Bialecki and Stan McGee aren’t asking (or simply don't want asked).  Perhaps State Treasurer Steve Grossman will give this an honest look?

1.     What are the economic differences to the state and local communities of Indian versus non-Indian gaming operations?  How does the Commonwealth’s budget coffers and those of impacted local communities benefit from a tribal preference which sets aside any region or site specifically for the purposes of Indian gaming versus a conventional non-Indian gaming operation?


·        Indian gaming operations cannot be taxed or controlled vis-à-vis their finances, size or operations in any manner by a state or localities (Sample references: 2011 Duluth-Fond du Lac casino contract ruling by IGRA and 2011 Rincon California court ruling)

·        Indian gaming operations pay no licensing fees or real property taxes for slot machines or other equipment (Reference: Wampanoag chairman Cedric Cromwell pledge to “crush the competition” by paying no fees or taxes.)

·        Indian gaming complexes  pay no state sales taxes for food, liquor, tobacco or other goods sold and create unfair competition for existing local businesses.  Indian gaming complexes pay no hotel taxes or fees.   Indian gaming “reservations” land and buildings are taken off the local rolls for real estate taxes and do not have to comply with local zoning laws (i.e., no building codes or permit fees) and cannot be forced to contribute towards costs for local services (i.e., additional emergency services, health or other costs which typically rise in localities neighboring casinos)  (Reference: Valley Journal and Indian Gaming Commission)

·        Studies show all new gaming, specifically those which include slot machines, have a negative impact on state lottery revenues.  Further, the studies show Indian gaming operations have a higher negative impact on state lotteries given their tax-free, high ratio of slots and no-limitation operations.  This means fewer lottery players and new costs required to compete with casino advertising for their market share of gamers. (Reference: Impact of Indian Casinos on State Lotteries, Siegel & Anders, Public Finance Review, March 2001)

2.     What are the job creation-related differences?  Many supporters of Massachusetts casinos say it’s all about jobs needed now, so what is the litigation, administrative and other corresponding delay risk for shovels-in-the ground jobs associated with including a tribal preference legislative carve out?  What are the long-term employment differences of having unregulated "reservations" where state and federal labor laws don't apply?


·        The land-in-trust qualification delay issue.  Indian gaming requires that tribes have lands set-aside into trust on which they operate their casino complexes.   Tribes with federally recognized reservations have lands-in-trust; no such reservations exist in Massachusetts other than the Aquinnah reservation on Martha’s Vineyard.  Based on current federal regulations, as recently defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Carcieri v. Salazar, no Massachusetts tribe qualifies for nor may be granted new land-in-trust by the federal government.  To change this requires an act of Congress, which has tried and failed to pass such legislation in the past three sessions.

·        The land-in-trust administrative delay issue. If federal legislation is passed and signed into law to “fix Carcieri,” the Department of Interior (DoI) may then begin the process of reviewing new applications from tribes requesting lands be put into trust for their reservation, casino gaming and other purposes.  The current review time for such reviews is between six and 15 years and requires multiple economic, environment and other impact studies and public comment periods before DoI will approve any new land-in-trust reservation.

3.     What are the local community impact and control differences between an Indian gaming operation and a non-Indian gaming operation for the localities in which they are located and their neighboring towns compared with non-Indian gaming operations?

A Time Magazine investigation revealed foreign backers, like the Malaysian gambling syndicate Genting which is backing the Wampanoag deal in Massachusetts runs the show.  Tax-exempt cash flows into these foreign investors overseas bank accounts while local communities suffer.  Local law enforcement, zoning and other rules are no longer allowed once a reservation casino is established in your back yard. Only the FBI can intervene and only when specific tribal constitution rules are broken when it comes to dealing with crime and other problems localities have with Indian casinos - which were never envisioned for non-reservation type settings like Raynham, Fall River or Mashpee.

Friday, July 22, 2011

C'mon, another $254,000 in campaign cash from casino lobbyists?

As recently reported the numbers are in for the first six months of 2011 and lobbyists on behalf of casino, Indian gaming and slot machine companies were paid a record $1.3 in the first six months of 2011, piling onto the $3 million from 2010 they received to influence gambling legislation in Massachusetts.  And how much of this largess did these lobbyists share with our elected officials via campaign contributions?  More than $250,000!  Given that lobbyists are limited to $200 contributions per official they really had to work hard to get that much cash into our legislators pockets in a short six month reporting period.

Of course, the top recipients still include Therese Murray with $8,499, and no surprise Governor Deval Patrick still just couldn't keep his promise to shun casino cash (re-iterated just a week prior to the release of this latest contribution report) and took a paltry $2,000 from lobbyists for the Wampanoag's (paid by their Malaysian backers), the Massasoit Greyhound Association (a.k.a. Raynham Park - where the Wampanoag's now plan their slots-in-a-box reservation), Boyd Gaming in Louisiana and Paper City Development.

If the Governor spent as much time paying attention to who was handing him checks as doing interviews outside of Massachusetts to promote his presidential ambitions he wouldn't keep having to explain red faced to the Globe and Herald how he doesn't "count every check" each time he's caught breaking his own rules.

As for other politicians turned lobbyist, Bill Delahunt has finally filed required lobbying paperwork disclosing his $15,000 a month deal with the Wampanoag for "advocacy and representation on behalf of client's rights on gaming" without any detail regarding the specific legislation or elected offices for which he performed these services.  Could it be that former Congressman Delahunt was sneaking in some federal lobbying from which he's still precluded by law?  Why else would the Wampanoags also be paying two other firms (Robert White Associates & Smith, Ruddock and Hayes) to help them lobby the state legislature for their tribal preference carve out scheme?  To whom was former Congressman Delahunt lobbying for the Wampanoag's "rights on gaming" if not the feds or state legislators?

Lest we forget, former Patrick aide Doug Rubin also reported being paid $55,000 by GTECH to lobby the Massachusetts Treasurers Office on gaming issues.  $55,000 is a lot of wampum for six months worth of lobbying one state office.  But it appears to have paid off for the former Patrick aid as Treasurer Steve Grossman appears on board moving state gaming forward even if it will likely reduce state lottery income.

With all this cash floating around, it's no wonder everyone claims casinos in Massachusetts are a foregone conclusion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Massachusetts casino gaming with a tribal preference – do our elected officials understand what they’re doing to us?

Lobbyists for Indian tribes, financed by their backers in Malaysia and South Africa, along with the lobbyists for the slot machine and video poker companies have been paid millions of dollars and have funneled hundreds of thousands more in campaign cash to state legislators to make sure special tribal preference language is part of Massachusetts gambling legislation.  They’ve impressed upon our politically correct elected officials that we owe this to the disenfranchised Native Americans living among us.  What’s really behind this scheming?  

The Massachusetts Indian tribes, mainly the Mashpee Wampanoag, need this special carve out because they currently don’t qualify to set up an Indian casino and need this tribal preference to hold off any competition until such a time as they’re able to overcome all the various hurdles they face.  Previous Massachusetts gaming legislative proposals mistakenly believed they could force the tribes to pay fees and share revenues – something the Supreme Court and Indian Gaming regulatory authorities have clearly said cannot be enforced.  Once a tribe like the Mashpee Wampanoag qualifies under federal law, they won’t need any state permission or legislation to set up a casino.  The Mashpee Wampanoag and their financial backers from Malaysia know this and their position was made clear by the tribe in 2010 telling the media:

If the Mashpee tribe does not get the (sole, non-competitive) commercial license in this part of the state, it will compete head-on with the company that does, Tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell said. "If we have land into trust, we could do class II gaming and not give (the state) a dime.” Adding, We will destroy the competition, because we won’t pay licensing fees or taxes and we will provide a great player experience with more wins.”

“Great player experience with more wins” is code for more, unrestricted slot machines.  And, the slot machine and video poker companies are big players here.  These companies, like the one represented by former Deval Patrick aid Doug Rubin, benefit more from Indian casino operations than state regulated non-Indian casinos – selling slot machines at $10,000 to $30,000 apiece and up means more than $100 million in sales for each Indian casino like Foxwoods.  Slot limits, sales taxes and licensing fees required by the state when slot companies sell to non-Indian casinos makes those much less attractive and less lucrative than Indian gaming operations which are free from such messy restrictions and costs imposed by the state.

Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Therese Murray and these gambling lobbyists hope we’re not paying attention to the details and costs for the Commonwealth, our local communities and the people of Massachusetts if this special interest carve out is included in the legislation which is expected to be presented to the legislature this September.  We are paying attention and suggest that our elected officials in the State Legislature pay heed as well.

A tribal preference, no matter how crafted, will mean three simple things: 1. Less revenue for the state budget; 2. Longer wait for desired development and casino jobs; and 3. Loss of local jurisdiction and controls for the impacted communities.  Who benefits?  Just the tribe’s foreign financial backers and the slot machine companies.  We’re watching.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ryan's Take: The Speaker's Slots Hypocrisy?

Ryan's Take: The Speaker's Slots Hypocrisy? Great post by Ryan's Take - lots of behind the scenes dealings still going on... Also check out for the latest ongoing FBI interest in the Wampanoag casino schemers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who is Cedric Cromwell - aka Qaqeemasq, aka Running Bear?

Mashpee Wampanoag council chairman Cedric D. Cromwell (b. 1965) is the third in a relatively recent line of tribal council leaders for the group since they were formally recognized as an Indian tribe in 2007.  He was elected to the chairman’s position in 2009 following the conviction of one of his predecessors Glenn Marshall on federal charges of embezzling, wire fraud, mail fraud, tax evasion and election finance law violations.  When convicted Marshall had already stepped down from the chairman position in August of 2007 following disclosures of a prior rape conviction and falsification of his military record; however, he continued to play a prominent role with the tribe on gaming and related issues until his 2009 convictions and sentencing.  His vice-chairman Shawn Hendricks assumed the chairman’s slot from October 2007 until Cromwell’s election in 2009 making Cromwell only the second elected council chair since the tribe’s federal recognition.

Following Glenn Marshall’s well publicized conviction, Cedric Cromwell ran for council chair on a platform of “cleaning house” and reform from the corruption which took down the previous administration.  However, Cromwell had been serving as a member of that tribal council under Marshall since before his removal in October 2007.[1]  From 2007 to 2009 Cromwell represented the council with Marshall in gaming-related meetings with Middleboro and Fall River officials and conducted numerous joint media interviews with Marshall on the tribe’s gaming plans.

Cedric Cromwell’s 2009 election was celebrated by some but was also tainted by complaints from other tribe members of election and voter fraud alleging that the election managers, all of whom were reportedly related to Cromwell, were alleged to have manipulated voter lists and allowed individuals multiple ballots in Cromwell’s favor.  Further, the complaints alleged Cromwell’s relatives blocked access to and tampered with the tribe’s membership and genealogy files in support of his membership and candidacy.  With Cromwell’s election came new financial backers for the tribe in the form of Malaysian billionaire Lim Goh Tong and his Kien Huat Realty arm of the Genting Group.

Other tribe members brought into question the legitimacy of Cromwell’s tribal status as Mashpee Wampanoag tribal membership requirement includes: “Persons who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts, or have had family members actively involved in tribal community affairs who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts for at least the preceding 20 years prior to application for membership.”

Prior to his role as a council member in the Glenn Marshall administration in 2007, the year the tribe received formal recognition; there is little public evidence of Cromwell’s association or involvement with the Wampanoag tribe.   Cromwell appears to have been added to the tribal membership roster submitted to the Department of Interior in 2006, but did not appear on the tribes previous membership roster submitted in 2002.  Around this period a Time Magazine investigation on Indian gaming claimed that tribe backers associated with Wampanoag lobbyist Jack Abramoff hired genealogists and lawyers to help casino supporters construct and qualify for tribal membership (see side bar).  Did Chairman Cromwell get such help?

From March 1996 to December 2008 Cromwell was a financial services manager with Fidelity Investments in Providence, Rhode Island.  From 2002 to present he resided in Attleboro, MA some sixty miles from Mashpee.  In different documents Cromwell claims to have attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (2004-2005) where he stated he received a Bachelors in “CPCS;”  however, following allegations that this was not a valid claims his resume with his education details was removed from the tribe’s official website.  It appears he in fact attended University of Massachusetts in Boston where he may have earned a certificate in Community Planning in 2005.  One of Cromwell’s LinkedIn profiles claims his degree was in Management and Public Administration, and that he also received an A.S. (Associates) degree from Roxbury Community College in Computer Information Systems. 

Born in Boston to James Oliver Cromwell of Nova Scotia and Constance “Connie” Tobey, Cedric Cromwell grew up in the Dorchester and Hyde Park neighborhoods of Boston, Massachusetts with his brother Craig.  Cedric attended high school in East Boston where he was a member of the class of 1983 at Mario Umana Technical School.  Cromwell was not born or raised in or around the community of Mashpee and his mother Connie Tobey reportedly moved from Mashpee to Dorchester at the age of five. 

Today Cromwell continues to reside in Attleboro, Massachusetts some sixty miles from Mashpee.  Cedric’s brother Craig Oliver Cromwell, who resides in Dorchester with his mother Connie, does not appear to have laid any claims to his Indian ancestry or membership rights in the recently recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.  These facts bring into question Cromwell’s residency qualifications for tribal membership under the groups own bylaws. 

Attending the Mario Umana school in East Boston required City of Boston residency, so Mr. Cromwell was still living in the City at least until 1983.  It is unclear where Cromwell resided from 1983 – 2002; however, records lists a Cedric Cromwell  residing at  48 Stockton Street, Apt. #2, Dorchester, MA during this time.   During this time he reportedly attended Roxbury Community College suggesting he remained in the Boston area, not Mashpee or the South Shore.  This hardly falls into the residency requirement category of having lived in or near Mashpee for the past twenty years.

A 2010 investigative report by Brian Kehrl of The Enterprise Cape News revealed a twisted tail of Wampanoag lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff, Michael Smith and Kevin Ring with references to bribery and the placement of “Manchurian Candidate” officials on local boards by the casino industry backers behind the Wampanoags.  Cromwell’s wife, Cheryl Frye is noted in this report as one of the key tribe liaisons with the town.   So the question we must ask, is Cedric Cromwell the Genting Group’s Manchurian candidate and how did he qualify for tribal membership status?

[1] Mashpee tribe elects its new vice chairman, by Christine Wallgren, Boston Globe, 15 October 2007.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scheming to craft gaming legislation in Massachusetts

According to a report in the Boston Herald, Senator Stan Rosenberg, Therese Murray’s supposed “point person” on gaming legislation, claims that “only the big three” (Patrick, Murray and DeLeo) have been sitting at the table crafting enabling schemes for Massachusetts casinos so far.   And, with the recently announced delays, it appears that Patrick and Murray’s plans for special interest carve outs that benefit slot machine companies and Indian gaming interests may be running afoul with Speaker DeLeo who might just have the people’s interests at heart.

However, State House News Service’s Mike Norton noted that it was only after reports exposing his closed door meetings and broken promises not to meet with or accept money from casino and Indian gaming lobbyists that the Governor stated he was putting the responsibility for crafting gambling enabling legislation with DeLeo and legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.  Whether hiding out or passing the buck, nobody should think this is over.

This delay only gives the Governor and Murray some leeway to continue their closed door meetings and time to get enough votes from committee members to get the deal they want for their special interest friends like Doug Rubin and Cedric Cromwell.   To whom on the Joint Committee and in the legislature do we think they’ll turn? 

While Deval Patrick and Therese Murray are tops on the campaign cash list from casino slots and Indian gaming special interest groups, the members of the legislative committee now “tasked” with crafting this legislation have some good candidates well primed by the same lobbyist money and we’ll have to watch them closely.  You see, combined they have taken over $60,000 from lobbyists seeking special carve outs for tribal preferences that offer no benefits to the people of Massachusetts.

Here they are ranked by casino slots and Indian gaming lobbyist contributions.  Follow the links on their names to chat with them on Facebook or e-mail them to see whose interests they’ll include when they present legislation to the House and Senate for debate this September:  Will they vote for maximum revenues for the state, continued local autonomy and jurisdiction for zoning and law enforcement or for the Wampanoag scheme to “crush the competition by not paying any taxes or licensing fees” and apparently now including housing, education, health services and other non-gaming activities on their new land-in-trust reservations.

Committee Member
Casino Lobbyist Campaign Cash
Petrolati, Thomas (D-Ludlow)
Spilka, Karen (D-Ashland)
Moore, Richard (D-Uxbridge)
Wagner, Joseph (D-Chicopee)
Joyce, Brian (D-Milton)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Foreign investors seek to exploit Massachusetts gambling carve outs for tax exempt Indian gaming

Casino Scam Report today details Genting Malaysia, the financial backers of the Wampanoag Tribe scheme to get tax-exempt gaming operations in Massachusetts, goals in the United States reporting, "This company is seriously betting on more liberal gambling laws from the US" to create an apparent network of new "mini Macau" gambling operations here.

Is this really what we want for Massachusetts?  For the communities of Raynham, New Bedford, Middleborough or Mashpee to have Wampanoag "reservation" gambling complexes within their communities becoming islands of casinos, hotels, restaurants and shops free from state and local jurisdictions and controls?  Does it make sense for anywhere on the South Shore, Cape or Islands to have valuable and currently taxed lands set aside into trust and exempt from all state and local taxes so foreign investors can suck hundreds of millions of dollars out of our economy into overseas bank accounts?  

If we are so desperate for short term construction jobs followed by minimum wage cocktail waitress and black jack dealer employment shouldn't we also seek some guarantees for local zoning controls, local law enforcement and protections for existing businesses from unfair tax-exempt competition?   As the recent Supreme Court case involving Indian gaming in California spelled out, once established, Indian gaming operations become outside the scope and reach of any local authorities.  No taxes, no zoning, no local police, no licensing fees, nada!

Despite the “Ca-ching” statements by Senator Therese Murray, Governor Deval Patrick and State Economic Development Director Greg Bialecki – the only people who will be cashing any big checks if the Wampanoag scheme for a tribal preference carve out is allowed will be foreign investors.  As Time Magazine reported on the investors behind the Wampanoag and other Indian gaming operations:

The big winners are non-Indian investors, some of whom pocket more than 40% of an Indian casino's profits. Actually, calling these people investors understates their role. They often serve as master strategists who draw up the plans and then underwrite the total cost of bringing a casino online: ferreting out an amenable tribe, paying a signing bonus, picking up tribal expenses and paying the salaries of the tribe's officials, all of this before a spade of dirt is turned. If an Indian band isn't federally recognized as a tribe and is thus ineligible for a gaming venture (like the Wampanoag), these full-service backers will bankroll genealogists to construct a family tree, then hire lawyers and lobbyists in Washington to help change the band's status. And if a reservation isn't prime real estate for a casino, the investors sometimes purchase a more suitable patch and instruct their lawyers and lobbyists to persuade the government to designate the land as a trust, as reservation property is called. ..”

While padding his campaign war chest with Wampanoag and lobbyist money provided by the Malaysian gaming syndicate Genting, the Governor and his team, led by Greg Bialecki, continually state they want casino gaming that equals that offered in by Connecticut.  Really?  Each year the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun foreign investors pull hundreds of millions in profits out of the state while the tribe is now more than $2 billion in debt and local communities neighboring the casinos are struggling to keep up with new expenses associated with having tax-exempt gambling operations nearby.  Massachusetts can and should do better.