Wednesday November 28, 2012

Here in the Berkshires, it is best to keep a wary eye on the casino wars going on elsewhere in the state. What transpires there could have ramifications across the state in one way or another.

Las Vegas gambling magnate Steve Wynn, whose plans for a $1 billion gambling resort in Foxborough ended with a no vote by Selectmen, is looking at a site in Everett, a short distance from the Suffolk Downs site where casino giant Caesars Entertainment is proposing a casino. The newly created state gambling commission says it wants competition for all of the regional licenses and it will apparently have that in the Boston area, which will trigger a heavily financed campaign and all of the potential problems that emerge when money starts flowing like a river.

Closer to home, Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, who won election in large part on his pledge never to allow a casino in the city, has flip-flopped and will support an effort to put a casino at Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mount Tom. Mayor Morse announced his new position in a speech Monday at City Hall, where he was roundly heckled by former supporters. "If I could have a dollar for every time he was called a liar, I’d be a millionaire," observed City Council President Kevin Jourdain to The Boston Globe.

The mayor said he changed his mind because neighboring Springfield is actively courting three casino proposals and he would prefer to have a casino in his city than one on his doorstep that he cannot regulate. This is exactly how casino proposals multiply, by knocking over neighboring communities like dominoes until residents wake up and find a heavily financed casino project sitting on their doorstep. By that point, resistance is futile.

Meanwhile, in southeastern Connec ticut, Foxwoods, the granddaddy of New England casino giants, has spent the year trying to dig its way out of a $2.3 billion debt. As casinos spring up all over New England, they are more likely to end up dividing debts than profits in a shrinking pie. Mayor Morse should be careful what he wishes for, as he just may get it.