Everyone is betting
Ed. note: The ramifications of casino gambling are huge, both statewide and in communities such as East Boston and Revere. Starting today, Josh Resnek will explore and explain the coming gambling wave, with his unique insights as former vice president and editor of the Independent Newspaper Group, which cover, among other places, East Boston, Revere and Everett.
All the casino talk and machinations by those seeking licenses in the state's three regions A, B, and C to this point in time pale by comparison with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's paralytic behavior.
In a cold, harsh and relentless business climate where time is of the essence, where time is about money made and money lost, money given away to others moving faster than you are and gaining advantages perceived and realized, having the slows is dangerous business. Frankly, it is bad business.
Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase about having the slows during the Civil War when his General of the Union Army George McLellan was acting a bit like Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Steven Crosby.
McClellan never made a fast move and so General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army roaming about freely only several miles from Washington on the other side of the Potomac River, got great advantage and made good use of it even though Lee's numbers were far smaller and his resources far less than the Union Army's. The war took an added three years to complete.
Governor Deval Patrick appears content with Crosby or at the very least content to let Crosby succeed or fail of his own volition without further involving himself. Lincoln was far more engaged and insistent that something be done and fast. He removed McLellan in favor of US Grant.
The rest is history.
Crosby and his board are taking their time getting going. Crosby takes pride in not paying attention to the clock, to enterprise, to the movement, creation and expenditure of private capital, the creation of jobs, the levying of new taxes and on and on.
At the same time he resists moving up timetables, casino operators in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and maybe in New Hampshire are preparing to take advantage of the Gaming Commission's slows. And in upstate New York, there will shortly be three competing casinos in the Catskills and in the vast area of New York outside of New York City.
Perhaps the only ray of light and hope for businesspeople trying to act like businesspeople is that Crosby is but one vote out of five and doesn't control his colleagues the commissioners. This will make ultimate votes and outcomes as unpredictable as the weather.
The fight or the contest to secure a casino license in the Region A District concerns Bostonians. This is about the effort being waged by Suffolk Downs and Caesars Palace in the Revere/East Boston nexus, Steven Nunes and the Foxwoods Casino folks in Milford and Steve Wynn in Everett.
What do we know right now and where are these three in the process as it stands today?
All three have put up the $400,000 application down payment.
Suffolk Downs is way ahead in planning. It is ahead in preparing its mitigation package with host city Revere and is expected to approve whatever it is that Mayor Thomas Menino asks for when he gets down to that moment for East Boston and the city as a whole. Revere is expected to get about $10 million a year. Boston will likely ask for twice that amount and get it. Why? The mayor's support is unequivocal. Anyone believing the Boston Herald's assertions that Menino is thinking about hedging his bet with Wynn in Everett has no understanding of the man and or what loyalty is all about. Menino is about as likely to deal with Wynn as he is to support Southie Congressman Steve Lynch in his bid for the senate. It will never happen.
Suffolk Downs is six years into planning, has already submitted architectural renderings and engineering reports, has estimated how much it will invest on its 150 acre site, how many new jobs will be created, how traffic will be mitigated and on and on. A referendum taken tomorrow in Eastie and Revere would likely pass by substantial margins. Also, Suffolk Downs has been a gambling mecca for 75 years.
Whether they like it or not Nunes and Wynn are Johnny come latelies to this unfolding drama.
Wynn's entrance into the bidding war is most problematic for Suffolk Downs. It doesn't matter that he's chosen a contaminated piece of land near to Boston in Everett to build on.
Nor is Wynn posturing putting up the $400,000 and hoping and waiting for the process to drag out and for the mayor to die so he can place his casino somewhere else in Boston at the behest of a new mayor who would look upon him more favorably. Wynn is playing for keeps.
He is very rich and builds dreamlike casino facilities that are unrivaled. His entrance several months back immediately caused Suffolk Downs to ramp up its projected build out.
In addition, Wynn's presence only two miles from Suffolk Downs front door is a direct attack on their otherwise leading position in this licensing process.
Wynn is in constant talks with Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. He can depend on the city government there to back the effort completely. Everett is not Foxboro. A referendum there would pass by a wide margin.
To this point in time Wynn has shown no plans, and has made no commitments as to mitigation. Traffic in Everett and access is a major problem in Everett more so than in Revere/East Boston.
Wynn is a good bet to even up the bidding for a license before the commission makes up its mind.
Nunes and Foxwoods in Milford on a wooded piece of land is the wildcard. Many astute observers of the casino world already formed and now forming say that Milford could be an ideal out for the commission and would allow it to forgo an urban casino for a suburban casino in the boonies 30 miles outside of the city.
The effort right now in New York is to keep traffic out of the city and to move it into the more spacious regions of the state. This is why New York is not allowing a casino in New York City.
There is a great deal of rising belief that the commissioners here might tend to be thinking this way for Region A.
In addition, Milford is not an assured bet to pass a casino referendum.
Last, Foxwoods has hooked up with Nunes because Nunes does not have the money it takes to command receiving a casino license. Foxwoods needs to stretch out the application process in order to maintain the $10 million or so each month it is stealing from Massachusetts in revenues.
If the process takes another year, paying $400,000 for an added $120 million in revenues before a license is granted here is good business.
Foxwoods is taking advantage of the Gaming Commission's slows.
Joshua Resnek has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine and in newspapers and publications all over the world. He received an Emmy Award for investigative reporting in 1996. He is the former vice-president and editor of the Independent Newspaper Group, owners of the Revere Journal, the East Boston Times Free Press, the Everett Independent, North End Regional Review, Beacon Hill Times, Back Bay Sun, Charlestown Patriot-Bridge, Jamaica Plain Gazette, Mission Hill Gazette, Chelsea Record and Lynn Journal.