Here’s a little update on the latest in casino world. In the big picture, we don’t know much, because there’s as yet no word as to whether, when, and to what extent the Governor will file a casino, slots, or other expanding gambling legislation this year. But there are some smaller-scale developments worth noting.
- A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an important decision that ended the Mashpee Wampanoags’ hopes for building a casino in Middleborough on tribal land — at least for now. Basically, the Court interpreted federal statutes to say that the government can only take land into trust for tribes that were already recognized in 1934. That of course does not include the recognized-in-2007 Mashpee Wampanoags. Therefore, the Mashpee Wampanoags are now in the same position as anyone else who wants to open a casino in Massachusetts: they are entirely subject to state regulation. However, the Court’s decision is purely statutory, so if Congress chooses to amend the law, this roadblock for the tribe would be lifted.
- In today’s Globe, an anti-casino PR guy pitches a progressive income tax as the antidote to what ails the state, accurately pointing out that it’s exactly what MA needs in order to be able to implement the state equivalent of the Obama tax plan. I’m all for it — I’ve been pushing to start the constitutional amendment process for some time now. However, it’s obviously not a short term solution, since even if the process got underway today, the earliest the required amendment could be on the ballot would be November of 2012, allowing a progressive income tax to take effect in 2013, with the state seeing the first fruits of it in 2014. We need to come up with solutions before that.
- Finally, Ryan points us to an article suggesting that dog track workers aren’t exactly lining up around the block for job retraining. They’d rather, well, gamble that the state will pass a racino bill that will save their jobs by turning the dog tracks into slots parlors … or maybe even that the lege will decide to repeal the dog racing ban. Seems like a bad strategy — about as sensible as doing your financial planning down at the lottery parlor. IMHO, the lege is not going to undo what the voters did, and a casino/racino bill will not get done in the 2009 session, if it gets done at all. Dog racing stops in January, 2010. So waiting around hoping against hope that the axe doesn’t fall, despite its distinct downward trajectory, doesn’t seem like a great idea to me. According to the article, the state is making retraining resources available:
Meanwhile, one state official said his offer to help the track was rebuked by its management. Ken Messina is the Massachusetts manager of Rapid Response, a federally-funded program in every state, which responds to companies and employees facing closings and layoffs. Messina said his team offered three months ago to set up shop at the dog track, hoping to educate employees about unemployment, health insurance and resume assistance.
“We were ready to go, and when we started talking to the representatives of the dog track, it was evident they were trying to see if there were any alternative things to keep the track open,” Messina said.
Track owner George Carney could not be reached for comment….
Messina confirmed his agency has set aside money specifically earmarked to help displaced track employees. “We haven’t spent that money,” said Messina, who declined to disclose the amount.
Why wouldn’t you take advantage of offers like that? Weird.