Don’t Bet on It

More than four years after state law authorized resort casinos, only Plainridge Park Casino, a slots parlor, is open for action. Gamblers itching for a fix might as well start betting on the casino proposals themselves. What are their odds?


Photograph by iStockPhoto

Wynn Resorts (Steve Wynn)
Odds: 1–3

Wynn has the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s approval in hand, notes Clyde Barrow, project manager for the Northeastern Casino Gaming Research Project, so the only potential roadblock is the environmental cleanup of the site. “I think it will be built,” Barrow says. As for Boston’s opposition, Barrow asks, “To what extent is it really just an effort to negotiate a better deal?”

Mass Gaming & Entertainment (Neil Bluhm and George Carney)
Odds: 3–2

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission may deal these would-be developers out if it thinks the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe can move forward quickly with its plan in nearby Taunton. “The judgment all comes down to whether you think a tribal casino is many, many years away,” Barrow says.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
Odds: 5–2

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs granted the Mashpee 150 acres in Taunton as a reservation in September, so it could build a casino without state approval. But Barrow says Attorney General Maura Healey, or others hoping to prevent casino saturation, may challenge the tribe’s ties to the land: “Many have argued the Mashpee never set foot off Cape Cod.”

Tiverton, RI
Twin River Management (George Pampanier)
Odds: 4–1

The owners of a slots casino in Newport want to replace it with a resort casino in Tiverton, just off I-195 near the state line, to compete for Massachusetts gamblers. “It’s a great location,” Barrow says. But voters in Tiverton and across Rhode Island have to approve the plan, and they have a history of saying no.

Martha’s Vineyard
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head–Aquinnah
Odds: 100–1

The 1,121-person tribe was converting its community center into a small slots casino when a federal judge ruled in November that it lacked a functional, active government. That means the tribe can’t use federal law to get out from under its 1987 agreement to follow state gambling law. Besides, Barrow says, “It’s not going to attract people from off the island.”