Howard Manly’s recent one-on-one with Deval Patrick (“Gov. Patrick eyes the future, one line item at a time,” May 8, 2008) refers to the creation of jobs in bioscience and new energy generation, which are very critical to reduce the brain drain that occurs, as our brightest graduates from Harvard, MIT and UMass leave the state for positions elsewhere. But Massachusetts also needs to find decent jobs for those previous employees of the textile industry whose factories closed because of low-wage competition in various Asian countries.
An Associated Press article published earlier this month indicated that the governor believes the gaming issue may again be introduced in Massachusetts because of the need for real estate tax relief. A recent poll by the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, revisits evidence from many previous polls that show Massachusetts residents favor casino and racing gaming, with nearly twice as many in favor as opposed.
Over 90 percent of casino jobs don’t require a college degree or even a high school diploma, but provide a living wage, including family medical insurance and 401(k)s.
Absent new legislation, the two Wampanoag tribes will pursue Class 2 gaming, like the Mashantucket Pequot tribe introduced at Foxwoods in Connecticut. The Cape Cod tribe is already moving ahead with a “land-in-trust” application for Middleborough, and the Gay Head tribe could pursue a similar application for New Bedford, a community that has voted in favor of casinos previously and is the closest land area to the tribe’s reservation on Martha’s Vineyard.
The federal government places great importance on any trust land being convenient to the tribal reservation before granting trust status for gaming purposes, and New Bedford would be a perfect location for a tribal Class 2 casino. This closeness would allow Gay Head tribal residents an easy daily commute, by existing ferry service, to employment at a tribal casino.
The preferred option, however, which would require House Speaker Sal DiMasi’s blessing, would be to have the Legislature pass a bill allowing some slots at existing race tracks and, as the poll suggests, include one or two casinos, possibly in the west and south of the state, where communities want casino gaming and are in the greatest need of jobs — ones that don’t require an MBA from Harvard or a Ph.D. from MIT and create billions of dollars in new construction opportunities.
And while considering gaming, give the two Wampanoag tribes a preference in the bidding process, so that Class 2 tribal casinos are off the table and taxes are an integral part of the equation.
Lets hope the Legislature will take another look at gaming and see that the state budget could immediately benefit from possibly as much as $1 billion in casino and racing license fees, and from slot taxes at the tracks that could be in operation within 3 to 6 months of legislation being enacted.