Upset about the revised scaled down plans the Foxwoods group offered for a casino in Philadelphia (which would be the second casino in the city), Pennsylvania revoked the group’s license. For now, there are no plans to replace Foxwoods any time in the foreseeable future. That said, big bucks have a way of making people see straight. PLB is betting that Foxwoods has not crapped out yet and that some compromise plan will be agreed upon.
Two quick hits on this rainy Tuesday. First, Foxwoods has announced that, like Harrah’s, it too is positioning itself to pounce in the online gaming world when (if, I know, I know) the U.S. legalizes online gaming. The venture is more speculative at this point (obviously, since online gaming is not yet legal), but it’s further evidence of business betting on legalization.
Second, on Monday the New Jersey Senate Budget Committee approved legislation that would legalize intrastate online gambling. The bill now may move down the path toward full legislative debate.
Foxwoods is in a battle with its beverage workers, who voted to unionize. Foxwoods objects to the move, claiming that tribal law, and not U.S. federal law, governs. Aside from general societal awareness, this story may appeal to poker players for two reasons: first, the increased labor costs that typically result from unionization may be passed on to players in the form of a higher rake, and second, the irony, as Foxwoods poker room servers are notoriously slow. Do I foresee a move to Mohegan Sun….?
If you’ve been to Atlantic City in the, well, past 30 years, you know that the town is need of a massive makeover. Heck, it needs more than touch-up work. It needs to be gutted. Enter Governor Christie to the rescue. New Jersey just announced a total overhaul of the city, including who is in charge legally, who is in charge practically, a new direction, and a rededicated drive.
To be more accurate, NJ will be taking over just the gaming and entertainment district, not the entire city. But for us non-residents, this is the part we are most concerned with anyway. Among the changes are that the gaming/entertainment district will become its own city (albeit within the rest of the city of AC — think the Vatican), local police no longer will be charged with protection, garbage disposal responsibility will reside with the state, and gaming regulations will be updated to make them in-line with those of Nevada (i.e., looser).
These are much needed and long overdue upgrades for AC. Hopefully it is not too late. AC faces strong competition from every direction (except east, since it is on the ocean). The new Pennsylvania casinos are a stone’s throw away, Yonkers has added slots, Mohegan/Foxwoods have expanded greatly recently, the Shinneock tribe soon will be getting a casino, and Delaware has broadened its gambling. What none of these places have, however, is miles of beautiful beaches. Vegas is hot, and so usable year round. But AC has the water. Granted it’s usable for only a few months each year, but the water should be made a major focal point of the destination. People should want to fly to AC to wine, dine, gamble, and swim. Water sports (surfing, windsurfing, paddle surfing, swimming, jet skiing, etc.), fishing, piers with restaurants/bars, etc. should be everywhere. Every great military leader knows that you must use your environment to your advantage. Atlantic City is under attack. Use the water.
If live poker was legal in all 50 states, what would poker games look like? Would casinos, racinos, and poker rooms proliferate to the extent that they become as common as Walmart? Would the player pool become so spread out that one would wind up playing against the same players most of the time? Would games be smaller and run less frequently? Would poker be worse off?
Let’s take the east coast, from Boston to Washington D.C. – the populous Northeast Corridor – as an example. In this region there are two major hubs of poker: Atlantic City and Eastern Connecticut. Players flock to these areas, often from distances far away.
But this could change soon. There is movement on the legislative front to legalize poker in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, two of the most populous states closest to these hubs. If downtown Philadelphia or Boston had a large poker room, it could stand to reason that players would not drive to Atlantic City or Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun. Taking it one step further, if these states legalized poker, New York might not sit idly amid its financial crisis and watch revenue from its residents continue to flee the state, especially when the perceived political risks likely would be less severe. If New York legalized poker, even more of the people that frequent Atlantic City and Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun would no longer be visiting.
Now imagine what might happen in areas far less densely populated than the Northeast Corridor (or California, which already has legal live poker). Games on the Gulf Coast or in the Midwest could be affected significantly. It is highly questionable whether hubs like Tunica, which already is suffering economically, could sustain action if games were being held throughout Mississippi and in its bordering states.
Don’t think this would happen? Wouldn’t you welcome trading a lengthy drive and the cost of lodging for the ability to play often and close to home, even if the games were not as “good?” Wouldn’t it be nice to play for a couple of hours after work, or on a Saturday while the kids are at soccer practice? Even if you don’t think so, imagine how many people would.
I am not advocating that we cease efforts to legalize poker. (There are many valid reasons why poker should be legal, and that legalization in fact would grow Atlantic City and the Connecticut casinos – a sort of rising tide lifts all boats argument.) But it is interesting to consider undesired, and perhaps overlooked, effects of legalization.
Despite previously strong opposition to gambling legislation in the Massachusetts House, it is looking like proponents of allowing resort casinos in the state are gaining ground quickly. Like every state in the US, the recession is hitting the Massachusetts coffers hard. The state has predicted that 2010 could see shortfalls ranging anywhere from $600 million to $1 billion dollars. These shortfalls are putting increased pressure on ways to find more revenue, which brings building casinos to the top of the list.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has been in favor of passing gambling legislation since he took office. Unfortunately, a significant majority squashed his first attempt in the House, with 108 of its 154 voters saying no. A new vote that proponents hoped would take place at the end of 2009 will now be postponed until 2010.
Therese Murray, Senate President, said recently that allowing casinos in Massachusetts is “inevitable.” It is felt that the state is leaking millions of dollars over state borders as its residents travel to Connecticut and Rhode Island’s gaming establishments, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. By building casinos at home, Massachusetts can keep money in the state, which will create jobs and tax revenue, and keep funds circulating in the local economy.
Even though Massachusetts casinos are looking more likely, there is still a hard slog ahead before any ground is broken. There are many strong voices in the state that feel that allowing gambling is wrong. They feel that casinos will take advantage of vulnerable people and increase gambling addiction. Opponents are also arguing that casinos might not be the golden goose that the state is hoping for, citing the financial trouble being experienced by many gaming venues around the country.
However, who really has a right to say that an adult should not be allowed to spend their money how they wish? The difference in the amount of people who sensibly gamble and don’t have problems, compared to those who do, is large. The majority of gamblers do it sparingly for entertainment. Arguing that gambling should be illegal because of irresponsible gamblers is like arguing that alcohol should be banned because of alcoholics and drunk drivers. If the correct support systems are in place to help those who find themselves in trouble, then gambling is a great avenue of adult entertainment that can also give the state’s financial balance a much-needed boost.