Massachusetts economic development chief Greg Bialecki told a committee hearing last month, "We believe our focus should be revenue recapture." Adding, "This means that whatever is built should seek to be equal to or better than the gaming and leisure options available in other New England states, particularly in Connecticut."
So why is the state still considering a tribal preference option which will allow tax-exempt Indian gaming? It is simply impossible to negotiate a “better deal” with a tribe which will not be within the jurisdiction of the state to regulate or tax once established. Continual Supreme Court cases, such as the recent Schwarzenegger v. Rincon Band Indians finding, affirm that Indian gaming cannot be regulated or taxed by states or local communities.
OK, so states can cut deals on revenue sharing when first negotiating to allow Indian casinos. (Note: These agreements can be negotiated and enforced with any non-Indian gaming operation as well.) The Indian revenue sharing agreements require a high degree of trust as Indian tribe accounting books aren’t open and available for auditing like those of public gaming companies. Even if we were to trust the Wampanoag gaming interests despite their leaders’ history of political corruption and other convictions, there is nothing to stop them from doing whatever they want once they establish a ‘reservation casino’ with land placed into trust by the federal government and sanctioned by the state.
The recent California court case shows what happens when the states ask for their fair share of revenues from expanding Indian gaming operations. They are shut out. Not only can Indian casinos expand, add machines, games, etc… without any local interference, zoning or other approvals, the state has no rights or abilities to tax or seek revenue sharing over such expansions. HELLO Secretary Bialecki, can you say “revenue recapture focus?”
Other state revenues are also lost with a tribal preference which allows for Indian casinos in Massachusetts. Every cocktail, meal and pack of smokes sold in non-Indian casinos will be taxed by the state. No food, alcohol, tobacco or any other product sold on the “reservation” casino can be taxed. As is the experience in other communities surrounding Indian casinos, local businesses then suffer from unfair competition that result in fewer local, fully taxed sales of goods.
The chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe Cedric Cromwell has made their position on paying the state their fair share and being a good partner clear.
“If the state gives a commercial license to another casino operator, we won’t pay the state a cent when we build a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts once expanded gaming is approved,” said Cedric Cromwell. “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.”
Nice guy if you happen to like extortionists who flouts his plans to operate outside the intended regulations and interests of the state. If this is what the Wampanoags look like now while trying to play nice to get their special tribal preference what can we expect from the later when they have no need for the state at all?
The Governor recently claimed that gaming legislation is a very “complicated issue “ and he has staff dealing with this so he can keep his hands clean. Secretary Bialecki, as the governor’s expert staff person responsible for this complicated, lobbyist-infested mess, please make sure the Governor understands the numbers when it comes to including a tribal preference option in the pending Massachusetts gaming legislation. Those numbers don’t add up for either jobs or state revenues when Indian gaming is given a special preference.