Governor Deval Patrick today signed H. 3807, "An Act Establishing Expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth," legislation that will advance job creation and economic development in the Commonwealth by creating the potential for thousands of jobs in the construction, tourism, hospitality, leisure and convention sectors.
"The final chapter in the long debate on expanded gaming has come to a close. I congratulate Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo and members of the legislature for sending me a bill that will put people to work and strengthen the Massachusetts economy. I have always believed that if done right, expanded gaming can create jobs, generate new revenue and spur economic growth in every region of the Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick. "Because of initiatives like this one, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation out of this recession."
"Our Administration and colleagues in the state legislature have stayed at the table over the years to develop a sound solution for introducing expanded gaming in Massachusetts," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "As we move forward, we will continue our due diligence especially as we consider the need for enhanced social and behavioral services as well as opportunities for job creation and economic development in regions across the Commonwealth."
The legislation signed by the Governor allows for up to three destination resort casinos in geographically-diverse locations, along with one slots facility, competitively awarded statewide. The legislation includes many of the principles Governor Patrick has advocated for throughout the lengthy public debate on expanding gaming, including transparent and competitive bidding of licenses, maximizing long-term value to the Commonwealth, expanding economic development benefits across all regions of the state, protecting host communities and nearby regions, addressing all social impacts and costs and ensuring rigorous public safety, regulatory and enforcement mechanisms will be the best in the country.
The legislation creates a five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission, an independent body responsible for implementing and overseeing the gaming licensing process with the utmost integrity. The chair of the Commission will be appointed by the Governor, and the Attorney General and Treasurer will each appoint one member. The remaining two members will be appointed by two out of the three appointing authorities. The Commission must be bipartisan, with no more than three members representing the same political party. The Commission must be appointed within 120 days.
The three potential resort casinos will be located in three geographically-distinct areas, with up to one facility in Region A (Suffolk, Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk and Worcester counties), up to one facility in Region B (Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin and Berkshire counties) and up to one facility in Region C (Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes and Barnstable counties). The licensing fee for each casino will be at least $85 million and capital investment, including a hotel facility, must be at least $500 million. The Commonwealth will receive 25 percent of gross gaming revenues from each casino.
The slots facility, which will hold up to 1,250 slot machines, will be competitively bid for one location in Massachusetts. The license will cost at least $25 million, and capital investment must be at least $125 million. The Commonwealth will receive 40 percent of gross gaming revenue on the slots facility, with an additional nine percent of revenues from the facility going to a new Race Horse Development Fund to promote live racing in Massachusetts.
"This legislation alone is not going to be the solution to our ongoing economic recovery, but it will help put unemployed residents back to work in good jobs with good benefits," said Senate President Therese Murray. "We are doing better than most other states, but we still have more than 250,000 people who are unemployed in Massachusetts. In addition to full-time, long-term jobs, we will see thousands of immediate construction jobs once licenses are awarded and proposed projects are approved by host communities. Bringing jobs and revenues to Massachusetts continues to be our priority, and this bill is a part of that effort."
"I applaud Governor Patrick for his signing this bill today. Governor Patrick, the Senate President and I have all worked together to make this possible," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "Most important, this bill will create jobs, address the `Blue Collar Depression' and provide much needed local aid."
The expanded gaming legislation does not create an exclusive licensing process for federally recognized Native American tribes in the state's southeastern region (Region C). Rather, it describes the federal process for federally recognized Native American sovereign nations who are legally entitled to conduct tribal gaming on tribal lands. Any casino built under this process would be a tribal facility, subject to a government-to-government compact between the tribe and the Commonwealth, which would include revenue sharing along with jurisdictional and regulatory rules determined as part of the compact negotiations. This will help to ensure the southeastern region is not in limbo due to uncertainty about a potential tribal facility as well as capture gaming revenue for the region and state. Limiting the number of destination resort casinos to no more than three distributed throughout defined regions of the state is the best way to maintain valuable market capacity and maximize short and long-term job creation and economic development opportunities for the entire Commonwealth.
Among many sections of the new legislation, there are specific provisions that relate to potential host communities and surrounding communities. Under the legislation, the Commission would be required to set out the terms of the application for a gaming establishment license, and the bill sets out certain requirements for that application. These requirements include detailed descriptions of timelines, location and hiring practices, as well as plans to identify, evaluate and mitigate social, economic, cultural and public safety impacts on surrounding communities. The legislation also requires the Commission, as part of its review of gaming applicants, to identify which communities would be designated as the surrounding communities of a proposed gaming establishment and hold a public hearing on the application before taking any action on the application.
The legislation provides for a variety of uses for the new revenue that will be generated for the Commonwealth, both as one-time initial license fees as gaming licenses are awarded and as recurring annual tax payments on gaming revenue at the facilities once they are fully constructed and open for business.
These include payments for local aid, health care payment reform initiatives, education and community colleges, transportation infrastructure, manufacturing initiatives, debt reduction and tourism. In addition, the bill provides for a wide variety of mitigation measures, including for public health and addiction services and community and cultural mitigation. The bill also provides funding for a new Race Horse Development Fund, to be paid to horsemen, trainers, riders and other stable workers and to breeding programs that support farms and other agri-business in the Commonwealth, similar to programs used in other states to promote a vibrant live racing industry sector.
"I believe this new law strikes the proper balance by creating much needed jobs and revenues for the Commonwealth while establishing the necessary mitigation programs to address impacts of expanded gaming including addiction and cultural impacts," said Senator Stan Rosenberg.
"This landmark measure will bring online a new industry sector which will yield thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues for local aid, public education, and infrastructure improvements," said Representative Joseph Wagner. "I wish to commend Governor Patrick, Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray for their leadership on this very important issue."
"The Coalition for Jobs and Growth sees the resort casino legislation as an economic development boost that will create thousands of new jobs, both construction and permanent, increase tourism, and also send much needed new funding to our cities and towns," said Mayor Kimberley Driscoll of Salem, co-chair of the coalition.
For a community that chooses to host a gaming facility, there would be additional payments made directly to the host community and surrounding communities, pursuant to agreements between the gaming facility and each impacted community.
Finally, all costs of the newly created Massachusetts Gaming Commission would be borne by the gaming industry itself and will not be paid by Massachusetts taxpayers.