Gambling giant Mohegan Sun, which is hoping to win a license to build a casino near Boston, took out a full-page ad in the Globe last week touting itself as “a better choice for Massachusetts.” Better, that is, than Wynn Resorts, the other contestant. Both Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts would very much like you to forget that there is a third alternative: neither of the above.
Mohegan Sun’s claim to being “a better choice” than Wynn rests largely on its promised payoff to its host community, the city of Revere, and surrounding communities:
Through agreements with 12 communities, more than double our competitor in the region, and without the need for arbitration, Mohegan Sun will deliver more than $30 million in dedicated revenue each year and ensure maximum regional economic development from its development.
OK, so what’s rival Wynn promising for its host community, the city of Everett, and surrounding communities? Why, more than $30 million in dedicated revenue each year, the same as Mohegan Sun. There’s not really a lot to choose between the two on this score.
While we’re here in the weeds, let’s look at a few more numbers from the license applications. Mohegan Sun is projecting 8.1 million visits to its casino each year, which would generate between $850 million and $1 billion in gross gaming revenues. Of those 8.1 million visits, 87 percent would come from Massachusetts.
So, in exchange for “more than $30 million in dedicated revenue,” Mohegan Sun is planning to take between $740 million and $875 million out of our pockets. Not all of that money would be casino profit, of course. Some of it would pay operating costs and some would be shared with the state. But all of it would be lost by Massachusetts residents.
Which is one reason, as recent polls show, why more of us are taking another look at this whole idea. The premise of Mohegan Sun’s ad — that our only choice is which developer should get the nod, not whether to build a casino in the first place — reminds me of a joke that the mother of writer Annie Dillard was fond of playing with governmental requests for information. As Dillard wrote in An American Childhood, her mother, something of a comedian, regarded the instructions on bureaucratic forms as straight lines: “‘Do you advocate the overthrow of the United States government by force or violence?'” After some thought she wrote, “‘Force.'”
[Note: the numbers cited in this post are available at links contained in an Amicus Brief in Abdow v. Secretary, the case pending before the Supreme Judicial Court that will decide whether the question of repealing the state’s gambling law will appear on the November ballot. The brief is here and well worth a read.]