Inside Gaming: Voters Across U.S. Come Out in Favor of Casinos, Gaming Expansion
This week’s Inside Gaming looks back at the midterm elections conducted in the U.S. on Tuesday where numerous gaming-related measures were voted upon in different states, with favorable outcomes for the industry in many cases.
Massachusetts Voters Want Casinos
There were a few measures voted upon in several different states Tuesday for which the outcomes will have direct impact on the gaming industry.
In Massachusetts there was a question on the ballot asking voters if they wanted to repeal the 2011 law that had paved the way for three resort casinos and a slots parlor to be built in the state.
The measure found its way on the ballot after a group called “Repeal the Casino Deal” was able to collect about 26,000 signatures during the summer to submit to the registrars to have the measure certified and added to the ballot, albeit amid some controversy including a failed attempt by the state’s Attorney General to stop the measure from coming up for a vote.
When the votes were tallied, just over 60% (about 1.26 million) said “no” to the question of whether the law should be repealed, while just under 40% (about 840,000) voted “yes.” The vote was considered by most observers to represent an overwhelming endorsement that the state’s citizens indeed want the casinos and slots parlor.
Proposals for the casinos in Springfield (by MGM Resorts) and Everett (by Wynn Resorts) have already been approved, however once the measure to repeal the law was introduced and certified to go on the ballot, the process was put on hold as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to wait to discover the vote’s outcome before granting licenses. That step didn’t take long to complete as licenses were awarded to MGM and Wynn this week, with the latter already paying the $85 million license fee and MGM planning to do so within two weeks.
There’s still much to be done with regard to the construction of the new casinos, with 2017 being targeted as a likely opening date.
Other States See Favorable Votes for Gaming
Several other states had gaming-related measures on their ballots as well on Tuesday, with most being voted upon favorably in what was considered by many a good night for the gaming industry at the polls.
In Tennessee a constitutional amendment empowering the state legislature to authorize lotteries passed with more than 69% voting in favor. The amendment will make it possible for more nonprofit groups, including those representing veterans, to hold charitable gaming fundraisers.
Kansas likewise had a similar “Charitable Gaming Measure” on its ballot this week that would permit the conduct of charitable raffles and other forms of charitable gaming by certain nonprofit organizations. More than 74% of Kansans voted in favor of that measure.
Meanwhile in South Dakota voters decided in favor of an amendment that authorized its legislature to expand gaming in Deadwood and tribal casinos, with over 56% voting for Amendment Q. That opens the door to the first significant expansion of gaming there in a quarter-century by allowing for the offering of new games — roulette, keno, and craps.
And in South Carolina voters were asked to vote on “Democratic Primary Advisory Questions” in order to find out how citizens viewed certain current political issues, with two of those questions relating to future plans for gaming in the state.
In response to the question “Do you believe each state — not Congress — should decide for itself whether to allow online gaming and determine how to regulate online gaming in their state?” over 72% of voters said “yes.” And to a second question asking if gaming laws should “be modernized” to fund the high costs of repairing the state’s roads and bridges, more than 80% of South Carolinians voted “yes.”
A Few Gaming Measures Fail
It wasn’t a clean sweep, however, for the gaming industry on election night, as a few states saw pro-gaming measures fail to earn needed votes.
In Rhode Island there were votes to see whether the Newport Grand might be allowed to expand into a full casino by offering table games. The state as a whole voted on the measure, and in fact more than 57% voted in favor statewide. But locally in Newport about the same percentage — 57% — voted against the measure, and local support was required for the expansion to go forward.
In California the Prop 48 Tribal Gaming measure was defeated with about 61% of voters rejecting a previously passed law that would allow the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to build a new casino that would have been located about 40 miles away from its reservation near Fresno and (some felt) too near another casino owned by the Table Mountain Rancheria tribe.
Finally a measure in Colorado to amend the state’s constitution to permit expanded gaming to be offered at the state’s horse tracks was defeated by a significant margin, with about 63% voted against the amendment.
Unlike the measures which passed on Tuesday, these latter two “did not have total industry support” reports Jeffrey Compton for CDC Gaming Reports, who adds that the night’s results can be regarded as especially positive for the American Gaming Association and its lobbying efforts.