A message from Chairman Crosby regarding the ongoing discussion of expanded gaming in Region C (Southeastern Massachusetts)
In keeping with our mission to be transparent and participatory, there has appropriately been much public and media discussion regarding the Commission’s consideration of whether to open Region C (Southeastern Massachusetts) to commercial bidders, and further comment about our decision to do so. In the spirit of those ongoing discussions, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify what appears to be a serious misunderstanding about the nature of our thought process and the authority under which we are operating.
In general, the expanded gaming legislation provides two paths for the Commission to follow with regard to commercial gaming licenses in Southeastern Mass. First is a requirement in the Legislation that if the Legislature did not approve a Compact by July 31, 2012 (it did) or if the Commission concludes that the Tribe will not ever be awarded land-in-trust, then under each of these scenarios, the Massachusetts Gaming law says that the Commission must promptly open Southeastern Mass to commercial bidders. The second path is rooted in the broad authority given the Commission to award up to one casino license in each of 3 regions, including Region C. Nothing in the law prevents the Commission from proceeding in Region C with commercial bidders precisely as it is proceeding with commercial bidders in Regions A and B. In other words, the law allows the Commission to open Region C to commercial applicants anytime it concludes that it is appropriate to do so. The Commission’s recent decision to open Region C to commercial bidders proceeds along this second path.
The Massachusetts Gaming Law clearly implies that there should be a window of opportunity during which the Tribe would have a chance to proceed with its compact and land-in-trust application, with an operating presumption that the Tribal casino could be the sole casino in Region C. This is consistent with the Legislature’s apparent belief that three casinos is the optimum number for the Commonwealth. Pursuant to this presumption, the Commission waited for nearly a year and a half subsequent to the passage of the law to see if the Tribe could seize this opportunity. It did not. There is a similar clear intention in the law that Region C should not fall far behind in its access to the economic development and employment impacts of a gaming facility. This intention is clear in the deadline set by the Legislature for approval of the initial Compact.
Over the past thirteen months, the Gaming Commission has been balancing these two potentially conflicting considerations. When it came time to consider whether to open Region C to commercial bidders, the Commission first considered the likelihood of the Tribe being awarded land-in-trust. The Tribe predicts that it will get the land-in-trust award by the end of this year; a number of other parties (including potential competitors) predict that a land-in-trust decision will take many years, if ever, to be awarded. The Gaming Commission has no way to independently verify these predictions. Consequently, the Gaming Commission is taking no position on the likelihood of the Tribe being awarded land-in-trust.
Rather, the Gaming Commission is acting under its authority to move forward with commercial applications for Region C at any time when it concludes that it is appropriate to do so. We have chosen to do so in a way that will not compromise or impede the Tribe’s ability to obtain land-in-trust. At the end of the commercial application process, the Commission will make a decision on whether or not, and to whom, to award a gaming license in Region C based on the quality of applications and the totality of the surrounding economic and competitive situation as they then appear, precisely as it will do for making the licensing decisions in Regions A and B. If the Tribe has obtained land-in-trust, and may therefore launch a competitor casino to a commercial licensee, the Commission will take that fact into consideration as it makes its licensing decision. If on the other hand, the Tribe has been unsuccessful in getting its land-in-trust award, the Commission will take that aspect of the casino economics in Region C into consideration as well.
As we have said previously, finding the appropriate balance among all of these interests and concerns is not an easy task. But it is a task to which the Commission is committed. We thank the public and the media for their ongoing interest and participation in this process as we move forward with the successful and historic implementation of the Gaming Act.