Massachusetts Spurns Bluhm Casino—Again
Neil Bluhm, the billionaire real estate developer who wants to build a casino at the Brockton Fairgrounds in Massachusetts (l.), has lost another bid to do so. Last week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission once more slammed the door in his face.
The backers of a casino on the Brockton Fairgrounds in Plymouth County, Massachusetts have been spurned again by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. A clearly frustrated real estate and casino mogul Neil Bluhm last week told commissioners: “I don’t honestly know how long you expect us to be hanging around here for Brockton.”
Clearly, the answer is considerably longer. The MGC voted 3-1 against reopening the casino license proposal that Bluhm’s Mass Gaming & Entertainment first submitted to the state several years ago, and which the commissioned rejected in the spring of 2016.
At that time, commissioners indicated they were creating as clear a field as possible within the southeastern part of the state for the Taunton casino planned by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (Taunton is 15 miles from Brockton). But they also said that the MG&E project had inadequacies.
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien reiterated that fact when she said her own reason for opposing the project in 2016 had to do with the small (146-vote) margin of victory for a 2015 citywide vote on the project, as well as design flaws.
She said, “All of those factors to me … cut against us reconsidering it at this point.” She added, “No one has forgotten Region C,” the only casino region in the state without a casino. “We are all fully aware it’s out there. I think that’s a conversation for another day.”
Bluhm is the owner of Rush Street Gaming, which runs casinos in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York. He argues that the commission was clearly motivated in 2016 by the fear of saturating the market. That fear is no longer justified, he said, because the Taunton casino is going nowhere at the moment due to a federal court judgment that the decision that put the land into trust for the tribe violated the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The tribe is appealing that decision, and also have backed a law in Congress that would put the land into trust for them by fiat.
Commissioners agreed that they clearly have the authority to revisit earlier decisions, however they thought the reasons presented by MG&E were insufficient to trigger such an action. Some members of the panel thought that doing so would be unfair to other groups that might want to bid on serving Region C.
Bluhm complains that he has spent millions of dollars and five years on the Brockton proposal. He told the panel: “I don’t honestly know how long you expect us to be hanging around here for Brockton. But to vote that you are not going to reopen this under any circumstances? I don’t know how I could continue to hang in here on behalf of Brockton.”
He argued that the state would get $55 million in tax revenues from $351 million in annual revenues from the casino. The city of Brockton would benefit from $10 million paid to it as a casino host city, he said, plus 2,000 construction and 1,800 permanent jobs. MG&E would also pay the city more than $13 million to help mitigate traffic and pay for more police and firefighters.
Brockton Mayor Moises Rodrigues asked commissioners to take the city’s faltering economy into account. Brockton has “crumbs,” he said, “and we don’t have the ability to do much for ourselves because we often feel the state doesn’t do much to help us out.”
However, a candidate for city council, Anne Beauregard, last week argued that many residents oppose a casino on the fairgrounds and called for finding another alternative. She declared, “I am thrilled we can finally put this to bed. We can start looking at a productive use for the fairgrounds that’s advantageous to the future of the community of Brockton.”
MG&E attorney Roberto Braceras commented that inaction will enable nearby casinos in Rhode Island to cement their market hold and suck away revenues from the Bay State. He said, “The point we’re making is there are no viable alternatives. If this commission decides it’s not going to consider this question, then Region C may never be tapped.”