Patrick Does Himself No Favors

1192721775Gov. Deval Patrick has a right to be fed up with the legislature. Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi and friends have a history of not taking up Patrick’s proposals in the most timely manner, and it appears the Speaker is up to his old tricks with Patrick’s casino bill.

We told you to expect this in the January issue of our magazine, so there’s little surprise here. Patrick’s core constituency of grassroots liberals largely view casinos as yet another regressive tax, so the longer the governor has to trumpet his proposal, the more supporters he’ll lose.

A weaker Governor, of course, makes for a stronger Speaker. And Patrick didn’t do himself any favors yesterday.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported:

Gov. Deval L. Patrick warned yesterday that inaction on his pending legislation to create three resort casinos could result in the establishment of an Indian gaming casino in Middleboro with no revenue stream to the state.

Mr. Patrick said he is pressing the Legislature to hold hearings and vote on his proposals for three commercially licensed casinos. He said continuing delays on the bill could eventually result in the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians setting up a casino outside of his proposals for commercial casinos.

It is true that if the legislature never takes up Patrick’s proposal, the Mashpee could forge ahead and open a casino on federal land, without having to pay a dime to the state. But in order to do that, the tribe has to successfully emerge from the long and unpredictable process of having their Middleborough land put into federal trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior.

The BIA is notoriously slow to act—maybe because they don’t have the internet—and the tribe itself has optimistically pegged the process at no less than two years. It’ll probably take longer.

There’s also the complicating issue that the Department of Interior may turn down the tribe’s land request. The decision rests on the whims of the Secretary of the Interior, and since nobody knows who that’s going to be in two years—we hear this is an election year—there’s no way of knowing how the Mashpee application will end up.

Even if that Middleborough land does get put into trust, the tribe would have to strike a deal with the state in order to host table games and operate slot machines, the real cash cows of the casino world.

For example, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates Foxwoods, has to pay 25 percent of their slots revenue to the state of Connecticut. Without an agreement like that, the Mashpee would be limited to bingo and bingo slots (less profitable machines that play like normal slots, but are technically bingo).

Patrick is misrepresenting the situation when he says the House needs to hurry up or else. If the legislature doesn’t take up the casino bill within the next two or three years, then the Mashpee might be able to open a bare-bones casino without funneling any money to the Commonwealth. But you’d have to imagine that when Patrick made those comments, he was hoping get the debate kick started a bit sooner.

In the meantime, score two points for DiMasi. The more the Governor has to harp on this, the more it grates on the very supporters who helped him get his job.