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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

High rollers

The Mashpee Wampanoags are painting the "chump" sign on the town of Middleboro, at least in the view of a number of top state officials. And those officials ask the very good question "why the rush?"

From Secretary of State Bill Galvin's questions about the ability to hold a legitimate outdoor town meeting on a short notice on a hot weekend in July to Treasurer Tim Cahill's more significant challenges to the substance of the agreement between Middleboro and the tribe, this is getting serious.
"It will change the entire fabric of the community, but it's the tribe and the investors who will make the lion's share of the money," he said in an interview with the Globe. "There are a lot of holes in the agreement. I don't see where it helps the town financially."
To borrow Middleboro selectman Adam Bond's love for metaphors -- this train is either not leaving the station or is about to become a runaway, smashing through the board and splintering the town.

I see the inevitability of casino gambling in Massachusetts -- and while I won't be stopping off at the slots on a regular basis, I have no great qualms about introducing it is a source of entertainment and revenue in a state that needs both. The Globe has now weighed in too.

But there is definitely a runaway train feel to this. First the tribe and town think they have a deal, but residents object. Back to the table and a new, allegedly sweeter deal. But in leaving a little less than one week between public posting of the documents to the town meeting the obvious question is "why the rush?"

Middleboro obviously feels it needs the resources. But why rush to a vote on a hot summer weekend -- especially when even a yes vote is not a signal for the cha-ching to begin? This proposal still needs state and federal approvals and that won't happen before Labor Day. Make that Labor Day 2010.

Cahill's comments may also represent those of a man representing an entity seeing its own dreams of riches wash away. Indian gaming is not as lucrative for the Commonwealth as privately developed gaming. A state can't stop an Indian casino -- and Connecticut has done very well with two of them -- but this is some of the "self-interest" motivating Cahill.

And in this instance, the self he represents is you and me.

Ditto for House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Gov. Deval Patrick and their own perhaps conflicting views on the subject.

We know this deal is good for the tribe. After that it is all conjecture.

Massachusetts has spent too much time fiddling and diddling over casinos, torn between its Puritan heritage and its shrinking resources. Mr. Bond would agree it's time to fish or cut bait.

But not with 10,000 people sweating in a tent on the high school football field in July.

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