Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crapshoot at the Not-OK Corral

I sighed as I read the title of the casino article du jour from today's Boston Globe:

A crapshoot for Mass: Congress’s uncertain direction clouds efforts to control number of Indian casinos, cost of licenses:

Here we go again...

I braced myself for the content.
A fight over Indian rights is reemerging as a central issue in the Massachusetts gambling debate, as the uncertain legal status of the Wampanoags is thwarting efforts to control how many casinos get built and how much to charge for the coveted licenses.
Sigh again...

Fortunately, Kathleen Norbut was there to insert an ion of sanity...
"There is a lack of full disclosure and understanding by legislators of the impact of Native American gambling," said Kathleen Conley Norbut, president of United to Stop Slots, a coalition of groups opposed to expanding gambling.

"Without performing an economic analysis, they are shirking their basic fiduciary duties as elected officials. Our Legislature needs take a step back and reevaluate the market, the costs, and the impacts."
...sanity which evaporates upon the voice of Senator Stanley Rosenberg:
Without being specific, Rosenberg intimated the proposed legislation would allow for the construction of tribal casinos.
That's right, Stan. That's just what Massachusetts needs. A tribal casino run by the Mashpee Wampanoag with help from their scary new international investors.  A veritable recipe for virtuosity.

Hey do we have that new enterprise-crime bill in place yet??

Yup, the same enterprise-crime bill Therese Murray once rooted so strongly for - so that we can try to catch some of all the new corruption and crime that comes with casinos.  Whoo-hoo!  Making casinos a teeny weeny bit safer for America!!

Absolutely brilliant. Hey, you know what? I think Tim Cahill ought to sign Rosenberg as his running mate and switch to the Massachusetts Doofocracy party.  T. Murray can be their campaign manager.

Listening to how some of our politicians plan to create new jobs and revenue for Massachusetts has been like having the Three Stooges tell us that the best cure for a bladder infection is a heart transplant - and that they're the best ones to perform the surgery.

Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard...

And so, just imagine my delight as I read this comment at the end of the article, posted by somebody named EquityLaw (pay attention to the second paragraph):

Like many state and local governments Massachusettes knows little about Indian Gambling law or perhaps they are purposely ignoring it because of inherent corruption. Indian tribes cannot operate any gambling casinos on Indian trust or reservation lands (sometimes mistakenly called sovereign lands) unless the state allows that type of gambling to others within the state. 25 USC 2710 d (see also Cabazon Tribe of California versus California (Gov. Wilson RPI) 480 U,S, 202.

The critical mistake for Mass. would be to amend the states Constitution to allow casino gambling. That is what opens the door to Indian gambling not only to the two Wampanoag tribal claimants but to any other tribe who could claim Mass. was part of their aboriginal territory.

In addition, the lure of the creation of "jobs", albeit low paying, transient and unprotected jobs (none of the laws protecting workers apply to Indian tribes and their businesses) there are a host of additional problems created. Indian tribes and their businesses pay no taxes to fund the public services and infrastructure they use regularly. Any agreement with any government to make payments "in lieu of taxes" are usually worthless and, at best, difficult to enforce. That is becasue Indian tribes and their businesses refuse to divulge the necessary information to calculate the payments and they cannot be sued because of an outdated court created doctrine giving them immunity from lawsuits. (Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma versus Manufacturing Tech. Inc. 523 U.S. 751) Customers have no protections and cannot sue for injury or damages either. In addition these gambling casinos bring a host of social problems like increased crime, divorce and family neglect, substances abuses, gambling addictions, bankruptcy and credit problems, etc.

Lastly these Indian casinos are not "destination resorts". Rather their gamblers come from within 100 miles and are most often people playing slot machines with money many cannot afford to lose at their convenient nearby casino. They simply drain discretionary monies from surrounding comunities and by providing "jobs" that do not generate anywhere near enough money to off-set the negative impacts.
5/26/2010 10:39 AM EDT
Beautifully said, EquityLaw! And thank you!

EquityLaw for Governor!

So please... I strongly suggest that anyone who thinks that they're safe from the Tribal scourge, now that the Mashpee have been embraced by Fall River, to think again, and to urge all Mass. Senators, and the Governor while you're at it, to call for a thorough and independent cost benefit analysis that computes the potential for 2 - 8 tribal casinos before making any new gambling law.

Because doing so isn't a crapshoot. It's more like loaded dice.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

After 3 long years, inevitability has finally left the building.

Everybody!  Sing!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mommie Dumbest

I think it's fair to say that State Senator Joan Menard isn't exactly the brightest bulb on the legislative Christmas tree, but sometimes you hear something that makes you wonder if the tree is even plugged in.

Yesterday - on Mother's Day of all days - an article with the title "Casino could trump BioPark" landed in my in box, provoking a sudden and unexpected deluge of un-motherly profanity.
State Sen. Joan Menard said government officials are awaiting the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s commitment to a casino in Fall River before considering amending the allowed use of the 300-acre South Coast BioPark.

“I don’t want to turn them away if we can provide 2,000 jobs for people,” Menard, a Fall River Democrat, said of the casino resort prospects. “We have to make sure this is serious.”
 But wait, it gets worse.

Apparently, last year, the State awarded UMass Dartmouth $17 Million dollars to build a "BioPark" - a sort of industrial park specifically for  "biotech manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, life science and IT industries".  The park would stretch out over 300 acres along Rte. 24, and potentially employ 8,000 people in "biotechnology manufacturing".

But then came the Mashpee, attempting to scare their casino-devotees in Middleboro into dropping expensive infrastructure requirements from their infamous inter-governmental agreement by threatening to take their non-existent business elsewhere - like Fall River (among other places) - and suddenly BioPark is on the backburner.
Menard and Mayor Will Flanagan — as well as Bialecki’s office — confirmed that the progress on building design of the $15 million UMass facility has been delayed. They said the past month of talks with Mashpee Wampanoag representatives over siting a casino resort was the key factor.
Ok let me see... what day is this again?  Oh, that's right, today is May 10, 2010.  Which means that it's exactly three years since a Duxbury attorney with experience in Indian Law came to Middleboro to tell everybody that it was in the towns best interest to seal the done-deal on an inevitable casino, which would easily be up and running in 18 months, a date which passed precisely 18 months ago.

But this nuance appears to be lost on Joan, who seems happily willing to drop a State sanctioned biopark-in-the-hand for a federally prohibited, still currently illegal, and officially un-sited casino in the bush.

Now, I get that Joan is under a lot of pressure.  With an 18% unemployment rate, she's on edge, and anxious to bring jobs - any jobs - to her district as fast as possible.  A good mom wants what's best for her family, after all.

But to hold up a project and jobs with as much future potential as this biopark on the say-so of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe - whose former chairman was sent to prison, who claim to have met the pilgrims, are attempting to weasel out of obligations to Middleboro, and remain in an assertive state of denial over the Carcieri decision - is really, really stupid.

But maybe Joan isn't so dim after all.  Maybe... just maybe... she's just using the Tribe as a form of faux leverage.

Because, despite the enthusiastic endorsement of the Fall River Chamber of Commerce,
The city’s Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property and has committed $3 million in start-up costs, has yet to transfer the necessary property to UMass Dartmouth
and that's not exactly creating those much needed jobs lickety-split, is it?
“We see this as a key spoke in the wheel for economic progress. We’re frustrated that we’re not seeing the forward progress that should be done,” chamber President/CEO Robert Mellion said in a follow-up interview.
But maybe the Redevelopment Authority has a good reason for not transferring the property to UMass.  According to Menard,
“We don’t have any drawings … We want to see the renderings of their perceptions of what they’re going to do, so we can discuss it with the university.”
...unlike the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which, according to Fall River's Mayor, Will Flanagan,
is way ahead of any potential developer regarding a destination casino in Massachusetts
And if "way ahead of any potential developer" means that UMass has been unable to produce anything better than a two-year-old crayon sketch on a cocktail napkin, then this is unequivocally true.

But personally, I think it's UMass that has some 'splainin to do.  Because, thanks to Professor-lobbyist-shill-license-plate-counter-and-human-Kool-Aid-dispenser Clyde Barrow, we've all become awkwardly aware of the University's "unofficial" official stand on casinos.

Could the University be holding off on the land now because if BioPark goes in, a casino can't?
The language agreement with the state explicitly prohibits a casino or landfill in the executive park
(As if combining "landfill" and "casino" in the same unsavory category weren't a clear indication of what most of us already know about the gambling industry - someone in State government actually felt the need to put it in writing.)

So c'mon UMass.  An institution of higher learning should be smart enough to know the Tribal threat isn't real.  But the Southcoast really does need those manufacturing jobs, and biotech is the future - a future with the potential for real growth and community prosperity - without the crime, addiction, and other costs.

And placing all of your chips on a casino - especially a tribal one - well that's just plain dumb.