Ahead of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s meeting on Thursday, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been running television spots to promote its cause for the exclusive right to develop a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts. The Commission has to make a decision whether or not to solicit bids for a commercial casino in that region, where the original legislation gave a tribe first priority.
The commercial is a classic example of notable marketing campaigns – appealing to current sensibilities without quite telling all the facts. Correctly, it states that the tribe and Gov. Patrick have come to an agreement that pays the state hundreds of millions of dollars, but adds “which the state is otherwise not entitled to.” Well, sort of. Certainly, most tribes don’t have revenue sharing agreements with the states in which they are located. But if the Wampanoags were not in the picture, there is no question that there would be a commercial casino in Southeast Massachusetts which would pay the state much more in gaming taxes than the tribal agreement calls for in revenue sharing. That fact is, not surprisingly, missing from the ad.
Similarly, the ad encourages people to contact the Gaming Commission to “protect jobs and revenue,” but again, those jobs and revenue will be there regardless. The Commission is struggling with a decision to prevent the worst possible scenario – that land trust issues and legal challenges could take years to resolve, meaning if it held to the original law, there would be no casino of any kind, no jobs and no revenue.
The tribe has been waiting for years for a casino opportunity, and is working hard to make sure it can pull it off in a timely manner. But the uncertainty remains, and the Commission’s meeting tomorrow should be interesting.