Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Massachusetts casino industry won’t be either.
It’s true that the state’s fledgling state gambling commission got off to a rockier-than-expected start. The panel’s selection for interim director generated so much negative press attention, he eventually backed out. Commission members are still in the hunt for their first executive director.
But as chairman Steve Crosby points out, the commission has moved forward as swiftly as possible, by hiring lawyers, consultants, and a communications director. The panel is also moving ahead with plans to pre-qualify potential developers. That should speed up the application process.
Indeed, regulatory issues may turn out to be less of an obstacle than local not-in-my-backyard resistance. While polls show Bay State residents support casino gambling, residents are saying no to casino plans in their communities.
In Foxborough, voters recently rebuffed a casino proposal by Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn by electing casino opponents to the board of selectmen. Lakeville residents, too, voted against a proposal by the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah to build a casino in their town. The vote on the nonbinding referendum was the second rejection for the Aquinnah. Freetown residents voted against a similar proposal for their town.
The state’s gambling law, which passed last year, allows for one resort casino in each of three designated regions. A provision in the law gives a federally recognized Indian tribe exclusive rights to negotiate for a license by July 31. If the deadline isn’t met, the process opens to other bidders.
It has taken about 20 years for the Bay State’s casino industry to get to the point of near launch. A little more patience — not to mention careful public scrutiny — will be needed. When it comes to building a new metropolis or a new business sector, it’s better to get it right than to do it badly.