GOVERNOR PATRICK UNVEILS PLAN FOR CASINO GAMBLING IN MASSACHUSETTS
Three destination resort casinos to spur economic development and create tens of thousands of new jobs
"After thoroughly reviewing the arguments and the analysis on both sides of the issue, I believe authorizing three resort casinos will have significant economic benefits to Massachusetts," said Governor Patrick. "Done the right way, destination resort casinos can play a useful part, along with other initiatives in life sciences, renewable energy and education reform, in providing our Commonwealth with sustainable, long-term economic growth."
The Governor's destination resort casino plan is another significant component of his strategy for ensuring the Commonwealth's economic strength and competitiveness. Along with his Life Sciences strategy, the Readiness Project, and the administration's 5-year capital plan, the construction and operation of three resort casinos will help create more than 100,000 jobs by 2010 and secure the Commonwealth's top position in a global economy.
Specifically, the plan focuses on the following areas:
Economic Development and Job Creation
The Governor's plan calls for the competitive licensing of three casinos to be built in the western, southeastern and metropolitan Boston areas of the Commonwealth. These three destinations would generate more than 20,000 permanent and diverse jobs throughout the state with good wages and benefits, and the construction of these facilities alone would create tens of thousands of additional jobs.
In addition to significant job creation benefits, the introduction of three commercial destination resort casinos to the Bay State is expected to result in hundreds of millions of dollars from in new state revenue annually after the cost of top-in-the-nation public health and public safety programs as well as mitigation to neighboring cities and towns.
"Locating these resort casinos in different regions of the state expands economic development and job creation broadly throughout the Commonwealth," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Dan O'Connell. "By ensuring a destination facility model we can diversify employment, support tourism and convention industry and continue to position Massachusetts as an economic leader"
Property Tax Credit
The new revenue generated from the three casinos would be dedicated to making a major investment in our roads and bridges and offering the relief struggling homeowners need across the state. Property taxes in Massachusetts have risen in many communities by more than 50 percent over the last six years. This historic rise in taxes has had a disproportionate impact on people living on fixed incomes as well as low and middle income families. Under the Governor's plan, half of new destination resort casino state revenue would be dedicated each year to broad based, direct property tax relief for more than one million homeowners. This broad based property tax credit is another step in the administration's efforts to reduce the burden of residential property taxes on homeowners. Along with the provisions of the Municipal Partnership Act, this property tax credit will result in real savings to Massachusetts homeowners.
Investments in Our Roads, Rails and Bridges
In addition, the Governor's plan calls for the remaining new state revenue from casino destination resorts to be spent on repairing and restoring the Commonwealth's roads and bridges, which have been neglected for 16 years. The independent Transportation Finance Commission estimates the cost simply to maintain our current transportation infrastructure at $15 billion to $19 billion, and currently there are nearly 600 bridges in the state that are characterized as being "structurally deficient." Although none of these bridges pose an immediate safety threat, the Commonwealth cannot delay in repairing them.
The additional revenue generated from the three, commercial destination resort casinos will allow the Commonwealth to address the outstanding backlog of rehabilitation and maintenance projects that exist throughout our transportation infrastructure network and to make critical investments that will ensure our competitiveness and economic future.
"Our roads, rails, buses and bridges are showing the effects and results of over 16 years of neglect by previous administrations," Governor Patrick said. "By investing a significant portion of the resort casino revenue toward improving roads we accelerate the growth in economic opportunities in every region, ensure the safety of our public roads and bridges, and address effectively one of the greatest fiscal challenges we face."
Acknowledging the social costs that often accompany resort casinos, Governor Patrick has incorporated comprehensive, "best in class" public heath and safety strategies into his plan. To address the increased demand on social service and public health programs, the Governor's plan calls for a new Public Health Trust Fund to be created and funded in an amount equal to 2.5 percent of each casino's gross revenue. The fund will support gambling prevention and addiction services as well as cover the costs for services to address other problems such as domestic violence and child welfare services. In addition, the state will launch a widespread educational campaign that addresses the potential addictive nature of gambling and will construct an evaluation system to ensure proper mitigation of any negative public health costs.
"This will place Massachusetts in the top tier of states when it comes to public health policy surrounding casinos," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "We will closely monitor the impact of casinos on public health and ensure there are resources for prevention and treatment."
Regulation, Enforcement and Public Safety
The Governor's plan also calls for the most comprehensive regulatory enforcement in the country. A new independent commission will be created to provide nationally unprecedented regulatory oversight. The regulation, enforcement and public safety strategy will be funded entirely by the destination resort casinos through an assessment on each slot machine and table game at the facilities. Additionally, a new and independent division within the office of the Attorney General will be created to enforce the regulations and laws developed to regulate casino activity. Further, special units of the State Police will be created to police each of the destination resort casinos and the Commonwealth will execute policing agreements with each facility.
"This multi-pronged approach ensures that we will have the most rigorous and transparent public safety structure in the country," said Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke. "We have built on the success and experience of other states and will have a strong and independent commission."
Supporting Surrounding Communities
To help cities and towns around casinos address any increases in police, fire, transportation or other services related to the construction and operation of the facilities, the state will create a Community Mitigation Trust Fund to be funded in an amount equal to 2.5 percent of each casino's gross revenue.
Open and Transparent Competitive Auction Process
Under the Governor's plan, companies interested in developing destination resort casinos will be required to bid on the three commercial licenses that will be made available. The Commonwealth will retain the services of a respected and reputable financial services firm to conduct the auction for the licenses and no more than three will be issued. The auction process alone is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars that would be used to begin the property tax credit program, fund road and bridge repairs and to construct the regulatory, enforcement and public safety structure that will oversee the casinos.