The Massachusetts Senate last month passed a bill that would authorize three casinos and one slot parlor.
The state would collect 25 percent tax on the casinos and 40 percent from the slots-only racino. The casinos could take as long as three or four years to build, according to some estimates.
Any differences between this bill and a similar one passed a few weeks ago by the House would have to be negotiated by a committee composed of members of both chambers. Then the bill would go the Governor Deval Patrick, who has publically been supportive of the legislation.
The Senate had earlier defeated several amendments, including one that would have prevented 9 percent of gaming revenue from going to the horse racing industry.
Senators rejected an amendment that would have required citywide referendums before a casino could be located in cities with populations higher than 125,000, which includes Boston, Worcester and Springfield. In those cities, only residents of the ward affected would vote.
Also defeated was an attempt to lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 18.
Senators did approve an amendment that would limit legislators from working in the industry for a year after leaving office. Another amendment approved would allow bars and restaurants, along with casinos, to serve free or discounted drinks to customers. Currently, bars and restaurants are not allowed to serve free drinks.
Senators also voted to retain the slot parlor, resisted an effort to cut the number of casinos from three to two and voted to require that casinos post the odds of winning on a slot machine.
One of the licenses is reserved for a tribal casino, offered to the two tribes in Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah Wampanoag. The Mashpee tribe has partnered with Malaysia’s Genting and seems to have the inside track because the Aquinnah tribe may fall victim to the Supreme Court Carcieri decision, which prevents tribes recognized after 1934 from taking land into trust—which will be a requirement in Massachusetts.
The tribes have until July 31, 2012 to negotiate a compact with the governor or the license will be open for bids from all potential developers.
While Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts had previously expressed interest in Massachusetts casino projects, it is unclear if any of them will submit bids. Caesars has partnered with Suffolk Downs racetrack, but there is no indication if the group will bid for one of the casinos or be content with the racino license. Wynn and Las Vegas Sands appear to be more interested in opportunities in Florida, while concentrating on their cash-cow Macau operations. Penn National Gaming has shown a deep interest in Massachusetts, and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has been laying the groundwork for a casino in Palmer, in western Massachusetts.
Union Gaming Group of Las Vegas says the three casino licenses are not created equal, and values them differently.
“We estimate the Metro Boston license (Zone 1) can generate approximately $1.5 billion in gaming revenue and between $410 million and $420 million in total resort EBITDA,” Union wrote in a note to investors. “Southeast Massachusetts (Zone 2) can generate approximately $430 million in gaming revenue and between $83 million and $91 million in total resort EBITDA and we estimate Western Massachusetts (Zone 3) can generate approximately $380 million in gaming revenue and between $65 million and $90 million in total resort EBITDA.”