This week, Inside Gaming takes a look at a decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the approval of a gaming resort in downtown Vancouver, and the Bulgarian Parliament’s amendments to the country’s Gambling Act.
Mass. Gambling Panel Approves Waiver
Mohegan Sun’s 11th-hour bid to build a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs is still alive.
On Thursday, the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously approved a request by Mohegan Sun and the city of Revere which would allow them to submit certified referendum results after the original Dec. 31 deadline.
The original $1 billion Suffolk Downs resort proposal was voted down on Nov. 5 when state investigators raised several concerns with Caesars Entertainment, the racetrack’s original partner. However, due to a “yes” vote in Revere for casino gambling, Suffolk Downs was still alive because they own 53 acres of property in the neighboring town.
“We have wrestled hard with trying to figure out how to reconcile the no vote in East Boston with the yes vote in Revere,” said Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. “There is no perfect solution.”
If the New Year’s Eve deadline weren’t amended, it would’ve been very difficult for officials from Mohegan Sun and Revere to negotiate a new host agreement and schedule another referendum in less than two weeks. With the new timetable, an application will have to be filed before the end of 2013, but the referendum can take place up to 90 days into the New Year.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo is confident that voters in his city will support the revised plan. If this is true, then Mohegan Sun will have an opportunity to compete with Wynn Resorts, who plan to develop along the Mystic River in Everett, for the sole casino license to be awarded in East Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission ignored complaints from Boston’s law department regarding the deadline.
“The integrity of the East Boston vote must be respected and maintained,” said a letter signed by Elizabeth Dello Russo, who represents retiring Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Menino supported the failed Suffolk Downs proposal in East Boston.
In the letter, Dello Russo complains that the city wasn’t provided a copy of the waiver request. Boston Mayor-elect Martin Walsh, who takes office in January, did not rule out the possibility of legal action by the city against the Revere casino proposal.
Republican American has more.
Vancouver Casino Approved With Conditions
On Monday, Paragon Gaming received a development permit with conditions to build an urban casino resort in downtown Vancouver.
The $535-million project is set to include two hotel towers, a conference center, restaurants, and a new, expanded location for the Edgewater Casino. The city’s director of planning and the city council will conduct a final review of the project before it can advance.
Two years ago the city rejected any expansion of gambling on the proposed site, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city will honor that promise. The casino’s license is still capped at 600 slot machines and 75 table games.
“Today’s decision by the Development Permit Board ensures that the proponent will have to align operators with the concerns raised in the recent Provincial Health Officer’s Report on Gambling,” said Robertson.
Opponents of expanded casino gambling in the city are worried about a potential increase in gambling addiction. In October, Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall released a report saying that British Columbia isn’t doing enough to curb the risks of gambling. Kendall provided 17 recommendations for gaming regulators, including a call for high-risk labels on electronic gambling machines and the elimination or limitation of free alcohol in casinos.
“I will ask city staff to identify further measures to prevent any expansion of gambling in the future on this site, including amendments to bylaws or the Northeast False Creek official development plan that will restrict the allowable casino floor space to the existing proposal,” Robertson added.
Sandy Garossino, a member of a group named “Vancouver not Vegas,” questions the timing of this decision.
“Why is this being rushed through in the Christmas season?” she asked. “The public is not being given the opportunity to be heard. None of this makes any sense.”
Along with addiction concerns, there is also a call from environmentalists to protect the city of Vancouver. As such, the building must be constructed to the “highest environmental certification,” also known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standard.
For more, head to CBC News.
Bulgarian Parliament Passes Gambling Amendments
The Bulgarian parliament’s attempt to nationalize online gaming failed, but they are ready to make amends and welcome foreign operators back into the market.
In last week’s edition of Inside Gambling, we detailed a tax decrease that was approved by the Bulgarian Parliament. This week we can report that the country’s government successfully passed the amendments.
The amendments passed their second reading on Thursday, bringing the country closer to the international gaming community by eliminating the blacklisting of online gambling operators and reducing the tax. The previous 15-percent tax on gambling revenue has been replaced with a one-off fee of roughly €50,000 and a 20-percent tax on the “difference between the bets made and the winnings paid out.”
Operators with “games of chance” will be required to pay 20 percent on revenue collected from fees or commissions.
However, MPs voted down an amendment that would have allowed casino operators to expand advertising, in fear that they would target young customers.
The passage of these amendments is expected to bring foreign online operators back to Bulgaria. Likewise, license regulations were amended in November, making it easier for operators to apply and ultimately receive a license.
The Sofia Globe has more.
Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe