Political Chatter

There is no shortage of developments in the Massachusetts casino-license race. MGM Resorts International recently secured Springfield’s endorsement, with 58 percent of voters approving the host community agreement that would allow the company to build its proposed $800 million resort-casino complex in Springfield’s South End neighborhood. This victory means that MGM can now submit its final application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for consideration. MGM is extending its campaign to the surrounding towns in hopes of increasing support for its proposal as it pursues the western Massachusetts casino license.

Two other well-known casino companies are in hot pursuit of the western Massachusetts casino license as well, and are set to hold their referendums soon. Mohegan Sun is looking to build a casino just off the Massachusetts Turnpike in the town of Palmer, and Hard Rock International hopes West Springfield will approve the casino it has planned for the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition.

Penn National Gaming has secured the necessary host community agreement, bringing it one step closer to winning the state’s sole slots-only license. The town of Tewksbury finalized a deal with PENN for a $200 million slot parlor near the intersection of Interstate 495 and Route 133, just 30 miles north of Boston. PENN’s competition, Cordish Cos., has also secured a host community agreement with Leominster, a town about an hour northwest of Boston. PENN and Cordish must now garner resident approval in their host cities via referendum.

In Boston, a Suffolk University-Boston Herald poll has found that voters in the city favor the proposed Caesars-Suffolk Downs casino by 49 to 43 percent. In order to be eligible for the greater Boston casino license, Caesars and Suffolk Downs must first finalize a community host agreement with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and then conduct a referendum. The alliance has stiff competition, with Wynn and Foxwoods also vying for the license. Wynn is facing a slight issue with its project as the City of Boston is claiming that the company’s proposed casino would fall within the city’s borders. If the claim is true, the project would no longer be eligible.

New Jersey
After a tumultuous past few months, Revel Casino in Atlantic City is making money again. With a new management team and a different marketing plan, the $2.4 billion property boasted a slot market-share gain of 0.6 percent in June and saw a profitable week at the beginning of July.
A recent Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act in Alabama could positively impact New Jersey’s appeal of the federal ban on sports betting. The ruling supported the idea that some states shouldn’t have certain privileges, a stance with which New Jersey most certainly agrees. The state claims that federal law unconstitutionally treats some states differently by allowing sports betting in Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon, while banning it in New Jersey. The appeal of the injunction that prevents New Jersey from opening itself up to sports betting should be finalized by Labor Day, though there is speculation that the case may wind in the US Supreme Court—a move that could delay the decision by a year or two.

Online gambling legislation is finally being introduced in congress. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has introduced The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013, legislation that would establish a federal regulatory regime for online gaming. The bill would create a uniform set of rules and protections to prevent underage and compulsive gambling and would ensure that those offering online gambling without a license will face penalties. It would also see the creation of the Office of Internet Gambling Oversight in the Treasury Department. This new office would set criteria for state and tribal governments to license online gambling operators. States or tribes that do not wish to participate in a federal interstate gambling system would be able to opt out or simply operate gaming in accordance with their own laws.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) followed suit, introducing his own online gaming bill. This one however, is specific to Internet poker. Barton’s bill would protect existing casinos by limiting online poker licenses to physical operations that are licensed to have at least 175 poker tables. Small operators would be allowed to pool their licenses to reach that requirement. The use of credit cards to fund player accounts would be prohibited, thus decreasing ease of use. The bill would create the federal Office of Internet Oversight that would be responsible for administering regulated gaming.

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