BOSTON - State Treasurer Timothy Cahill sees room for two or three Massachusetts casinos, but prefers a competitive bidding process over deals to build on Native American land.
State Treasurer Timothy Cahill sees room for two or three Massachusetts casinos, but prefers a competitive bidding process over deals to build on Native American land.
At a seafood lunch hosted by Regan Communications at the Boston Harbor Hotel yesterday, Cahill told business leaders the state would have more options if private entities, race tracks and tribes are forced to offer competing plans and locations for resort casinos.
"(The governor and the Legislature) have two choices - they can either allow this to happen and control the rules of the game and get not only the best outcome for the state but also the most revenue for the state, or we can just try to ignore it and let it happen on its own but with the federal government forcing our hand as they did in Connecticut," warned Cahill, who does not want tribes to cut their own deals.
According to Cahill, Connecticut's two casinos bring in $3.5 billion annually, but the state only gets 25 percent of slot revenues, or $500 million, because it resisted the casinos instead of negotiating a better deal.
"The longer we wait the less leverage we have," said Cahill, who hopes it is not too late to harness the momentum the Mashpee Wampanoags won Saturday when Middleborough voters approved a deal that gives the town $11 million annually.
The tribe still has to find a potential site for its casino and get federal authorization to trade Mashpee land for Middleborough land.
Cahill, an outspoken critic of the deal, estimated the approval process would take between 18 months and three years. He believes that if Massachusetts gets on board soon, investors may be persuaded to cooperate with the state in order to get their casinos built faster.
"This is not a done deal, even though the tribe would like to make everyone believe that it's inevitable," said Cahill, who emphasized that it is up to Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature to expand legal gambling.
According to the governor's office, Patrick is reviewing the recommendations of a task force he formed to study the issue and will make a decision by the end of the summer.
The lunch was one of a monthly series hosted by public relations magnate George Regan at which key state policy makers frequently speak. Past speakers have included U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Quincy, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, and Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston. Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, is slated to speak next month.
Lindsey Parietti of The MetroWest Daily News (Quincy, Mass.) can be reached at email@example.com.