Cross-posted from CFO Blog
Repeat after me .. inevitable, inevitable….
The casino developers behind the Mashpee Wampanoag are trying to hypnotize us into believing that casinos are inevitable. This has been part of their campaign first at the local level in Middleboro and now at the state level. The reality is that unless Massachusetts legalizes class 3 gambling, or enters into a compact with the tribe that allows them to have slot machines, the Middleboro casino will never be built. The tribe is putting on a poker face and trying to bluff the state into allowing class three gambling – particularly slots – trying to create the belief that a casino is coming one way or the other so we might as well play ball. So long as Governor Patrick plays it smart – there will be no Indian casino in Middleboro.
But what about the Pequots and the Seminoles?
When the myth of casino inevitability is floated, they always hold up the case of the Mashantucket Pequot(Foxwoods) of Connecticut and the Seminole of Florida – both started off with class two bingo halls that turned into highly profitable class three casinos. The case of the Mashpee Wampanoag and their casino dream is different for these reasons:
- The other tribes already had reservation land
- The other tribes grew their casinos gradually without any regional competition
- The other tribes eventually got(or will get) slot machines because slots were legal in the state. It’s the slots, stupid.
- Neither had an agreement with the town that required them to pay $7-9M dollars per year and $220M in infrastructure improvements for a class two facility
Back in July, a key person involved in the Middleboro IGA told me that the casino could be stopped at the state level – that if class three gambling was not legalized, then the tribe would not build a class two facility.
Slow growth Chernobyl
Even if the Mashpee are allowed to have table games such as blackjack, poker, etc … without slots the profits just aren’t there. This is especially true when you factor in the required payments to Middleboro. Consider that Foxwoods made a profit of only $2.5M in it’s first year of operation in 1986 as a bingo hall. In 1992, the Pequot built a casino via a $60M investment from a Malaysian developer. At this point, the facility looked like this:
The new Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo & Casino opened in February 1992, offering poker, blackjack, roulette, and other games at 170 game tables. In addition to the 46,000 square-foot gaming casino, the facility included three restaurants, a museum, and a piano bar.
It was a small facility compared to what it is today and only required about $60M to bring on line. A similar facility in Middleboro would cost $220M for infrastructure plus construction costs of who knows what. Let’s say $400M. Now you’re up to $620M for a fairly small facility that can’t possibly compete with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. It wasn’t until 1993 when the Pequot tribe signed a compact with the state of Connecticut and added slot machines that Foxwoods became the socio-economic Chernobyl it is today.
No slots = No ROI = No Casino
Without slot machines, the profits just aren’t there for a class two facility due to:
- Competition from real CT and RI casinos
- The $7-$9M payments to Middleboro cutting into profits
- The $220M in infrastructure improvements that will be required as part of their agreement with Middleboro
Folks, I was hoping this was obvious to everyone – CasinoFacts.org has been saying it all along. I still see the pro-casino head cheerleaders taking every news article and Mashpee press statement as “proof” that the tribe will build a class two casino. This is pure fantasy. The Mashpee are still playing the old “sign or else” strategy that worked so well for them but so badly for Middleboro.
I hate to be the one to break this to my pro-casino neighbors – but the return on investment is just not there. This will be class three or nothing … and “nothing” is looking more and more likely as Patrick’s legislation continues to die a slow and painful death in the press and in the legislature. So long as Patrick is smart about giving slots to the Mashpee Wampanoag, there will be no casino in Middleboro. If you listen to political wonks like Scott Ferson, the casino is inevitable. If you use a little common sense, you’ll see the reality.