Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Casino interests trying to pit MA v. NY and frenzy legislators to act on gambling legislation

Localities like Palmer are rushing to hold meetings with prospective casino operators while lobbyists are pushing through local zoning changes in places like New Bedford that will smooth their way to promised treasure troves of gambling wealth.  As the Auburn Citizen reports, “Casino operators last week began pitting both states against each other, saying one cannot afford to let the other go forward with legalized gambling…”  But nobody is stopping to think or evaluate the absurdities and realities associated with these plans.

In New York, Aqueduct operator Genting is lobbying for fast action by the legislature and opposing Indian gaming which it claims would create unfair competition.  At the same time Genting is the money behind Wampanoag plans for a tribal preference and carve out in Massachusetts that is trying to push through legislation requiring non-competitive Indian gaming.  In Massachusetts the Genting-backed tribe is threatening to move forward without the state and “crush the completion” by not paying any taxes, fees or tributes if legislators don’t favor their plans.  The Wampanoag's tactics under new lobbyist Bill Delahunt must be making their former hired gun Jack Abramoff spin in his cell.  In either case this Malaysian gaming syndicate known as Genting wins big and the local communities, states, Indian tribes and federal government will surely lose.

Gaming interests like Genting, David Nunes and their lobbyists are trying to drive local elected officials into a panicked frenzy to see who can beat out his neighbor chasing promises of gambling cash.  They are hoping in this panic that elected officials, plump with campaign contributions from casino lobbyists, will push forward special interest legislation, with carve outs and set-asides that have no real benefits for anyone but these out-of-state, overseas and out-of-reach operators.

Local elected officials are claiming they need to “act fast” and are rushing to the tables to secure deals with the Mohegan tribe in Palmer or the Wampanoag band in Fall River.  What these local officials, indeed the State, do not understand is that any money an Indian tribe agrees to “share” in the end will only be a gift and not a contractually binding guarantee.  In fact, as recently announced in the Duluth v. Fond du Lac Indian case, if such dollars are tied to “revenue” or any percentages associated with the casino business, a Department of Interior decision will make such agreements unenforceable.  Similarly, the State of California is finding deals they cut to limit and share in revenues of Indian slots is being shut down with the Supreme Court ruling Schwarzenegger v. Rincon Indians.  Revenue sharing, you see, infers joint management, control or an ownership stake in the operation which is not allowed under the rules which allow Indian gaming to exist.

But heck, who cares about rules.  At least that’s what the lobbyists and Indian gaming investors seem to want.  Just move fast!  This panic will surely lead to bad deals for the local communities and that is clearly the intention of the gaming interests.  They wouldn't need to be spending tens of millions of dollars lobbying if the only outcomes here were increase jobs and new revenues for the Commonwealth.

Others like Nunes are simply threatening to circumvent any legislative review and balance by pushing forward a ballot measure which will secure his personal rights to be the Commonwealth’s casino czar – a bizarre and absurd abuse of the initiative process.  None of these special interest groups have the interests of the people of Massachusetts in mind; therefore, we must make sure our elected officials do.  Cost-benefit analyses, thorough credible consideration, transparent and open competition MUST be the hallmark of any gaming legislation enacted.

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