Mashpee Casino Could Be Start of Regional Casino Saturation

Hot off a major federal victory, the tribe presses on with its casino plans.

Project First Light Casino via the Mashpee Wampanoag	Tribe.

Project First Light Casino via the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Fresh off a federal ruling that approved their request for reservation land, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is pressing on with its plans to build a $500 million casino resort project in southeastern Massachusetts.

The massive development project, dubbed Project First Light, is spread across a portion of the tribe’s 320 acres and will include a 600-hotel rooms, 150,000 square feet of gaming space, a 25,000 square foot water park, and a 15,000 square foot event center.

Taunton officials are over the moon about the prospect of a casino going up because they will receive approximately $8 million a year in gaming revenue.

The southeastern city has struggled for decades since the departure of manufacturing. Part of the casino’s pitch has always been that it will not only benefit the tribe but the surrounding community, too.

“It’s a great day for Taunton, for the tribe, and for Southeastern Massachusetts,” said Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye according to reports.

The tribe told reporters on Monday that they hope to have the resort operational in two years.

While the casino promises riches for the tribe and for the region, it create all kinds of possible headaches for the casino industry across southern New England.

The lone remaining Massachusetts resort casino license is reserved for the southeastern portion of the state and has just one applicant, a group seeking to build a $650 million facility on the Brockton Fairgrounds.

Backers of the Brockton plan, including former dog racing magnate George Carney, have declared they intend to move forward with their project no matter what happens with the tribal facility.

If the Mashpee Wampanoag and Brockton casinos are built they will compete directly with the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, roughly a half-hour drive from both locations. Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island is just a 45-minute ride on Route 44. In Newport, another slot parlor is less than an hour away.

Additional competition stands less than 90 minutes away in Connecticut at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the original New England mega resort casinos. A planned third casino, jointly run by Foxwoods and Mohegan, could further clutter the gaming market there.

Meanwhile, a Wynn Resorts casino in Everett and MGM property in Springfieldare scheduled to open in 2018, further siphoning off potential customers to a busy southeastern gaming market.

Oh, and a potential 2016 ballot question could create a second slot parlor license.

Casino saturation is a new but well documented phenomenon in the United States, just look at Atlantic City where casinos have struggled since Pennsylvania opened its own casinos in 2006.

Consumers may benefit in the short term from the glut of new gambling halls but it is unclear if the market for so many facilities in the southern New England market is sustainable over the long haul.