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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why, We BET We Can Help You!

Porcupine very much enjoys listening to Finneran’s Forum on WRKO in the morning, and today he got to hear Deval Patrick explain his stance on casinos while stuck in gridlocked traffic on the Mass Pike. Porcupine’s only criticism of the exchange between Deval and Tom is that Mr. Speaker really needs to get that slightly hushed deference out of his voice while talking to His Excellency. Deval was in fine fettle, and is apparently taking his title seriously – when speaking, he havers between the ‘Royal We’ and ‘I’ when referring to his initiatives. For example – WE are going to limit the number of casinos to three, and place them in these venues – versus – I will not accept a lot of amendment to My proposal. Brave words indeed for early in the battle. Click on the Forum link to listen for yourself.

Porcupine has cheerlessly predicted this all along. The Governor will back casinos because he needs to pay off on at least SOME of those pesky campaign promises, without reverting yet again to Kerry Healy's 50 point program for ideas. The fact that he was anti-casino pre-election is a buried fact, deep in the Globe archives, where it won't be brought up again by them.

All along, the objections of Treasurer Cahill and Boston Mayor Menino centered on the State not getting a big enough cut. By legalizing casino gambling outright, Deval has a unique opportunity for patronage well into the next decade.

Who will operate these “three resort style casinos” that the Governor wants? Cahill's office? Porcupine is convinced that GamblePort is just months away. After all, Transportation Secretary Cohen and the Governor have already announced that they are proceeding with a plan to merge the MassPike with MassHighway, just like GOP governors have sought to do for years, to eliminate waste and inefficiency. Ah, but what IS inefficiency? A new entity like GamblePort can become a haven for politically connected toll takers if the merger of the Pike with MassHighway is completed. After all, they DO have experience with handling quarters. Still, the STATE is going to put three resorts out to bid? Tell me, Deval - who has the best linen contract in Mass.? Ohhhh - sorry! WRONG answer! Yes they ARE cheapest, but they're not UNION!

The Democrat establishment wants casinos in New Bedford, Worcester and Boston. The problem all along has been that the Indian Gaming Act stipulates that tribal casinos must operate within 50 miles of tribal lands - and there aren't enough Dorchester Democrats looking for patronage in Mashpee. So - they'll do this legalization. Still - the tribe can put its Middleboro lands in a Federal trust and operate a casino per the voted agreement with the town with NO cut to the state. It can be a much smaller operation and still be profitable without the Beacon Hill Vampires to assuage.

The sad truth is that even three is too many casinos. Mohegan Sun wasn’t even built until Foxwoods had been established for ten years, and the Connecticut tribes have been careful to protect market share as they expanded. Three casinos coming on board simultaneously? All will fail, as they will not prove economically sustainable. But those are just the state casinos – after waste, patronage and ineptitude have swept them away into tattered hulks like the Hynes Convention Center or the Worcester Centrum; the Wampanoag may still have a petite and profitable operation on Federal trust tribal lands in Middleboro without the monkey of state government on their backs. Everybody could have made a decent profit if not for the greed of Bacon Hill, but Deval has proven he cannot say no to too much.

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