Thursday June 7, 2012

Across the border in Albany, New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has enjoyed great press and poll numbers since taking office, is taking heat over the $2.4 million in contributions from casino interests to a pro-Cuomo group. In our state, a gambling analyst has damned the faltering, convoluted casino process with faint phrase by observing that "nobody has been indicted," which was not the case when Pennsylvania officials tried to bring in gambling. Here in the Berk shires we can be thankful that we continue to be on the outside looking in at casino fever.

Governor Cuomo's endorsement of casino gambling in January's State of the State address surprised many, and two months later the Legislature endorsed up to seven casinos in New York. The New York Times reported Tuesday that a casino trade group and a company linked to it donated $2.4 million to the Committee to Save New York, a promotional group formed at the governor's request. The governor denies there is a quid pro quo, but try proving that negative when casino donations are followed by professed casino support and casino legislation.

It has been a little over six months since the Massachusetts Legislature approved casino legislation that Governor Patrick has signed into law, and we have seen MGM bail out of Brimfield (not enough room), Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn give up on Foxborough (too much local opposition) and Boston-born billionaire Sheldon Adelson abandon tentative plans for the state entirely (too much casino competition.) In an attempt to limit southeastern Massachusetts to just one tribal casino, the law gives an inside track to the Mashpee Wampanoags for a presumed Taunton casino, but a private company seeking to put a casino in New Bedford is suing the state for favoring the tribe. The Pocasset Wampanoags claim they have the rights to the Taunton land the Mashpee Wampanoags went to build on. The Aquinnah Wampanoags, which the state doesn't recognize as a tribe, want to build in either Freetown or Lakeville, towns that have rejected casino gambling in nonbinding referendums.

Indeed, the best that can be said about this process, as Clyde Barrow of UMass-Dartmouth did in The Boston Globe Sunday, is that no one has been indicted -- at least not yet. Beyond naked greed, we are seeing that generalized support for casinos disappears when specific locations are identified, and the economic struggles of the two Connecticut casinos may be causing concerns about a casino glut. The longer this process drags on, the more drawbacks ignored last year when casino fever was at its hottest will come to light.