$omething Bruin

Did you know the Bruins’ season starts tonight? No? There’s probably even less of a chance that you were aware that the Bruins’ parent company, Delaware North, also owns and operates gambling interests along the East Coast and that they are a major competitor for one of Governor Deval Patrick’s three state gambling licenses.

“I think we have the skill sets to be a participant somewhere, and it’s in our backyard,” said William Bissett, Delaware North’s President of Gaming & Entertainment. “We have a significant, serious interest.”

Like everyone else, the company is mostly in wait and see mode until Patrick unveils his casino legislation (expected next week), but Delaware North has already sat down with a few different state legislators. They’ve also dropped nearly $30,000 to hire former Assistant Attorney General Robert Rodophele as their gaming lobbyist.

Still, much of the local front page attention has focused on potential bids from the Mashpee Wampanoags, Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Park, with Delaware North mostly flying under the radar. The exception was an oddly-placed report in the bottom of one of Globe hockey writer Kevin Paul Dupont’s notes columns.

Dupont reported Delaware North/Bruins bossman Jeremy Jacobs as expressing a desire to land a casino next to the TD Banknorth Garden, on the edge of the North End. Jacobs was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure if the county or state would consider [the Garden area] a viable location, but everyone should think about it.”

Bissett backed off that idea on the phone this morning, explaining that his company would be interested in locations across Massachusetts, including outside of Patrick’s “Boston or points north” region. Delaware North people said the Jacobs/Dupont conversation was merely “off the cuff”.

Bissett declined to give more details on other potential sites, saying it was premature to discuss before the governor releases the actual legislation, expected next week. Considering that the Commonwealth’s most powerful gambling opponent, Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, hails from the North End, it was probably a wise move to pull back from the idea of planting a destination casino in his backyard.

Bissett further hedged on the Dupont report by saying that, beyond owning a casino, Delaware North would be interested in a supporting role. “We can play a role in a destination resort plan, whether it be slot operations, table operations, the hospitality world, the gamut,” he said. In other words, if Delaware North doesn’t successfully take the lead role on developing a destination resort casino, they’d still be interested in getting in the game.

That would fit into the company’s overall plan. Bissett was installed as Delaware North’s gaming chief in June with the express mission of expanding the company’s gambling interest.

The company already runs five slots and racing venues (“racinos”) in Tennessee, New York state, and West Virginia, and is preparing to convert their West Virginia site into a full fledged table-game casino. That move, Bissett said, is a complicated one that has required bringing in over 200 new employees. As Delaware North’s first foray with a full casino, Bissett said it also represents important experience for the future, which they hope involves Massachusetts.