Tribes Shell Out Money to Mass. Lobbyists

Tribes Shell Out Money to Mass. Lobbyists

ICTMN Staff
1/26/11

Tribes, companies and organizations with gaming interests spent more than $3 million in attempt to sway Massachusetts lawmakers in 2010, according to an Associated Press review of lobbying records filed with the secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. That amount is up from $2.5 million in 2009, and double the $1.5 million spent in 2008.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe topped the list of big tribal spenders, shelling out nearly $156,000, according to the secretary of the commonwealth's reports.

Sheldon Adelson, a former Massachusetts businessman turned gambling magnate, paid lobbyists $180,000 in hopes of scoring a casino license for his Las Vegas Sands Corp., reported Gaming Today.

At the head of the pack, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, operator of the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, put $850,600 into lobbyists’ hands in an attempt to induce lawmakers to approve an expanded gambling bill, reported the AP. The racetrack wants to rise to resort status with hotels, entertainment venues and a luxury casino.

Taking a different route from other tribes in light of potentially rising Pioneer Valley competition, the Uncasville, Conn.-based Mohegan Sun is banking on Massachusetts legalizing casinos. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is seeking a gaming license in Massachusetts, reported The Day. The group has optioned property in Palmer in West Massachusetts--an initiative the Mohegan Sun team assures remains on track despite its recently degraded credit rating, reported masslive.com.

"Our position in Massachusetts and our communications have been that if and when the commonwealth decides to pass legislation legalizing gaming, we believe we have the best site and are in the best position to provide that form of entertainment," said Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan Tribe's chief of staff, noted The Day. "We do believe that destinations are far better than no bid awards to tracks."

What surprises some people, The Day stated, is that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand, “is not among the nearly 30 gaming entities that lobbied the Massachusetts legislature in 2010, according to the secretary of the commonwealth's Web site.”

Considering the tribe's Connecticut-based gaming houses would inevitability feel the impact of new Massachusetts’ casinos, and the tribe has not indicated consideration to build a Massachusetts-based casino in the event the commonwealth legalizes statewide gambling, it would seem like a natural measure for the Mashantuckets to stake money in lobbyists, reported The Day.

But the tribe has chosen to build its relationship with the federal government instead. The Mashantuckets paid $170,000 over the first three quarters of 2010 to lobby the U.S. House and Senate, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, posted on OpenSecrets.org.

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