MA Gaming Commissioner Suggest Casino Fees Could be Refunded if Law Overturned
Responding to concerns voiced by casino companies competing for operating licenses in Massachusetts, late this week the head of the state’s Gaming Commission, Stephen Crosby, said that hefty licensing fees ought to be refunded in the event that voters repeal a casino expansion law that was passed there back in 2011, this according to a report by the Boston Herald.
We reported earlier in the week that the casino companies, while worried that anti-casino groups may be successful in their efforts to get a repeal on the November ballot, are not exactly sitting idly by, but rather plan to file a motion with the Massachusetts Supreme Court to prevent such an action.
Crosby sees room for legislature to act
The brick and mortar casino expansion law passed in the Bay State three years ago allows for the issuance of up to three permits for resort style casinos more typical of Nevada than New England, as well as for one slots-only gambling parlor.
The licensing cost for the resort style casinos stands at $85 million apiece, whereas the slots-only license comes at the reduced price tag of $25 million.
Should anti-casino efforts take hold, casinos that have already paid the fee would have no recourse as things currently stand.
“That’s not fair. We hear that, and one reasonable fix would be for the Legislature to do whatever it would have to do to make that money refundable in the unlikely event that that all happened,” said Crosby, who has received some heat as the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, having been sued both personally as well as in his professional capacity by Caesars Entertainment thanks to the company’s abandonment of its plans to build a new casino property in East Boston at the site of the historic Suffolk Downs racetrack.
Budget is already counting the cash
Another issue is that state leaders, including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, have already included casino licensing fees and some casino revenue into budgets projected for the upcoming fiscal year.
Obviously, if the casino law is rolled back and the funds put up by the companies vying for the highly desired licenses is returned to the applicants, that money is off the table and programs and groups lose that source of funding.
A spokeswoman for Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Alex Zaroulis, was quoted as saying, “The budget is built on a number of assumptions that we closely monitor throughout the year, and this is one.”
It should be noted that the state’s Attorney General, Martha Coakley, is not in favor of repealing the land-based casino expansion law. Coakley has said that such an action would amount to a breach of contract with the casino companies, many of which have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing their plans and working to gain community support for their projects.
For their part, activist groups who would like to see the law rescinded object to the fact that because the law was passed by legislative action, voters in the state had no say as to whether or not new casinos would be built in the state.
That is only partially true, however, as residents in the communities where the casinos are to be built – and communities impacted by such development – had the opportunity to vote in public referendums, which were “must pass” given that no application was to be considered by state gaming regulators without a win at the polls.
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