We told you so!
It's over! .... for Middleboro
It gives me great pleasure today to thank all the dedicated members and friends of Casino Facts who have been fighting and supporting us to maintain the quality of life that we so well deserve. For almost three years we have been trying to drive a message home that a Casino in Middleboro was "not inevitable". Many will say it was the SCOTUS decition to not allow land to trust, or the high cost of the infrastructure, or the environmental impacts, or one of the many other road blocks that put an end to the Tribe's ill-fated plan, but in my heart I truly believe it was the culmination of dedicated research, and the tireless effort to educate and help people understand the logic and the basic principle that there is no price tag for an exchange of "quality of life". Today is not only a victory for Middleboro, but for the area as a whole, but the war is far from over, for now is the time to fight for the rest of the residents of Ma. and help them understand the dark and hidden secrets of predatory gambling.
President Casino Facts Committee
Casino Draft Agreement In Plain English
Contributed by Mark Belanger
Updated with impact costs obtained from FinCom
If we sign this deal, we will lose more than $150K and likely
into the millions of dollars
Ok. I've had time to digest and analyze this document in some detail. Please contact me if you have any corrections.
The bottom line: This agreement provides less than half of the money we need. This deal will cost the town money or at best break even. The only acceptable deal would include a percentage of the gross slot revenue. The going rate for selling an idyllic small town is north of $20 million dollars. A percentage of slots would insure that as revenue and thus impact increases, so does the money. When we get a percentage of the slots that adds up to more than $20M, I will stop complaining about the money. I will continue to complain about the social impacts, but will shut up about the money. We can not accept a facility that does not fully address the costs and impacts.
In this article, I intend to analyze the substance of the draft agreement - as much as I can given that I am not a lawyer. This is the agreement reached with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and negotiated by Adam Bond, Ruth Geoffries, and Dennis Whittlesey.
I have to say, that many parts of this document are a big improvement over the original draft agreement. The people that wrote it clearly did listen to the complaints raised by the first agreement. I acknowledge that and give credit for it. It's nice to be listened to for a change. The phrase "good faith" is mentioned more than 12 times and there are many parts that seem rather hastily thrown together and subject to later "good faith" negotiation. A deal of this magnitude must be thorough, considered carefully, discussed with the public, and ironclad. This agreement is none of those things.
The project revenues of $11 million dollars are overly optimistic and probably are closer to 7 million dollars. I base this number on this math:
+7.0M (base payment that increases by 3% a year)
+2.0M (realistic hotel tax income)
-2.8M (costs in police/EMS salary pensions)
-3.0M (school costs)
-1.0M (general government costs)
-1.0M (employee fringe benefits)
-1.1M (removal of the trash fee that Mr. Perkins is always promising
-250K (extra ambulance needed according to Rodgers/FinCom)
-150k - We will lose $150K.
Given that there will be lots of other costs that
we haven't thought of, and this deal has to potential
to cost us millions of dollars.
Note - this does not include the infrastructure improvements. Most
of those are not needed if we have no casino. The Rt. 44 work can
be done by the state if needed, and upgrades to utilities to
accommodate normal growth can happen the same way it happens for
every other town in the state. The deal was supposed to bring us
extra money to lower taxes, buy open space, fund the library, shine
my shoes, remove trash fees, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. It will
do NONE OF THOSE THINGS.
The BOS should explain themselves for trying to sell us this pig in a poke by not providing all the impact costs to us. Well....? I'm waiting.
I put in a freedom of information act request to the
town departments impact assessments. They have not
been delivered to me. Fortunately FinCom has some of
the numbers. I got the impact costs for schools, government,
and employees from a document passed out at the 7/25/2007
Finance Committee meeting. If you are interested, the documents
Page1, Page 2, Page 3
This total does not of course include costs for a new police station or money for any of the departments such the DPW and all the other costs that will come with this facility. In case you don't know, I am against the casino. Please read this document carefully, listen to my justification of this analysis, read the agreement, and decide for yourself.
Clyde Barrow a "UMASS gambling expert" said that first deal is too little and too rushed. This agreement brings us similar financial compensation and I couldn't agree more. It's too little and with less than a week to analyze it.... it's WAY TOO SOON.
When West Warwick cut a deal with the Narragansett tribe, they got
an agreement that would "would pay the town $14 million the first year,
up to $21 million in the 10th year all based on the tribe paying 2 percent
of its gross revenue along with local property taxes and other local fees."
The city of Barstow California in an agreement negotiated by Whittlesey got $6 million dollars that increased at a rate of 4% for a facility that would only have 1700 employees compared to our 10,000+ employee facility. By the way, this was a case of reservation shopping gone wild with a proposed casino nicely situated between Las Vegas and Los Angeles but hundreds of miles away from the Tribe's location.
- In section 22E this agreement forces us to write letters of support for putting this land into trust. Why do they need if they can do this without an agreement with Middleboro?
- The size of the facility is undefined and contains a clause to renegotiate if the size increases which is good. The main facility remains undefined so while we can increase the deal if it gets bigger, we don't know how big it will be to begin with so we can insure that we are getting enough of a base payment.
- The guaranteed base payment is a 7 million dollar that increases at 3.1% a year according to CPI. I'll point out that our budget is projected to increase at 8.6% a year. That said there is nothing the agreement can do to enforce fiscal sanity on us.
- The only other money is a 4% tax on room receipts that will be much lower than the $4 million dollar figure being bandied about in the press and by the town/tribe. It will be more like 1-2 million. The reason for the reduction is that casinos give complimentary points(comps) and free rooms to attract gamblers and maximize slot revenues. We won't earn money on the comps. This is why we need a percentage of slots. If you doubt what I am saying, this section of the agreement says it all "except for complimentaries and rooms occupied as a result of player points or other similar promotions".
What I find disturbing is that when Whittlesey and Bond were asked, Adam didn't even seem to know what comping was, and Whittlesey didn't know how prevalent it was. That means that a key part of the agreement that gives us money was negotiated by people who didn't understand the ramification of what they were negotiating. Given the rush to get this deal done - what other slap-dash stipulations are we going to be stuck with?
- The town is committing to creating it's own ambulance service that will add costs in salaries and benefits such as health care and pensions. It highly unlikely that this will turn a profit for us. If it would we could do it with or without a casino driving it.
- The Tribal-Town committee that will advise on future matters - is structured so that the tribe will always come out on top in any dispute. The first agreement has been improved upon in that the committee becomes advisory only. The town and the tribe are not compelled to act on their behalf.
- The town is signing away it's free will. We will be legally bound to pursue the interests of the casino even when they are at odds with our best interests. Unlike the first agreement, the tribe will pay any legal expenses.
- We are bound to supply services(water,sewer,power,etc) to the casino - which they will pay for. In the case of electricity, there is a stipulation that the "rates will be favorable to the Tribe". It is unclear what will happen once their demand outstrips our supply. This isn't a criticism so much as an observation.
- Code Enforcement(building, fire, etc) has a built-in conflict of interest. It has been improved over the first agreement in that there is a provision for independent consultants to do periodic review. I'm satisfied that this is sufficient.
- They seem to be committed to reducing the impact on town surface roads. I don't see any money for changes we might have to make in town for local traffic impacts other than Rt. 44.
- Does not directly address any of the increases in town expenses - school expenses for example - that will come with the inevitable increase in population. The document acknowledges that there will be impacts and provides essentially for training. However, the large impacts across all departments will have to be managed by the insufficient sums designated by this agreement.
- Does not address any of the "promises" made by Glenn Marshall when he gave his "presentation" at the Nichols School. Specifically, it was promised that locally impacted businesses and homeowners would be compensated. In this article
There is absolutely nothing like this in the agreement. If someone is going to come here and give us his word, then that person has to follow up on it by including it in the agreement.
Section By Section Analysis
Section Two - Project Description
Section 3. Future Land Acquisition
Section 4. Mitigation Measures
Section 5. Local Impact Payments
Section 6. Tribal Collection Of Local Option Sales And Use Taxes.
Section 7 Commonwealth Payments to the Town
The Tribe will not take away any money that we get from the State(which will be 0 dollars) and will support our efforts to get a cut of the state's cut.
Section 8 Transportation Improvements
The Tribe agrees to pay for all roadwork - limited to RT. 44. It there is any payment for work outside of Rt. 44 I'm not seeing it here. There is a general statement that they are going to do their best to reduce the impact of traffic on Middleboro surface roads. My concern is the responsibility for road improvements that are needed for the casino, but do not directly service the casino - like some of our already iffy town intersections.
Section 9 Utilities - Middleborough Gas and Electric Department
- The Tribe will only get G&E; from Middleboro G&E.;
- Will pay $13M for upgrades or more if needed
- Town will provide a favorable rate. Can't say I like this very much. The rates being paid today will pay for the upgrades needed tomorrow.
- Tribe will pay $12.4M or more if needed to upgrade gas
Section 10. Water Service
This section says that Tribe will pay all costs to upgrade water infrastructure for 750,000 gallons per day up to a maximum 1.5 million per day. This is estimated to be $26M of which the Tribe will only pay 22.5 million leaving Middleboro with $3.6M. This seems contradictory in that on the one hand it says the Tribe will pay all costs and on the other hand says Middleboro will pay $3.6 million.
Unlike the G&E; the tribe may at some point produce their own water. I'm uncomfortable with this stipulation.
Section 11. Sewer and Wastewater Service
The Tribe will pay for all sewer costs. The town will provide 500,000 gallons of sewerage volume per day. In the future the tribe may create their own treatment systems. I'm not sure about this and will defer to someone else if it is problematic.
Section 12. Solid Waste Disposal
The Tribe will hire a private waste hauler for trash disposal.
Section 13. Consultation on Project Design
Good faith agreement to work with the Planning Department to mitigate light and noise pollution. It's nice that this is in here but it does not obligate them to actually do anything. Still, it's a nice touch.
Section 14. Green Construction
The Tribe will try to build environmentally friendly facilities. There is no requirement that they do, just that they try. Still, it is a nice touch.
Section 15. Police Protection
The Tribe intends to create a tribal police force. There will be a good faith mutual aid agreement, and Middleboro will assist the Tribe in getting federal funds.
Section 16. Fire Protection
The Tribe will provide their own fire or contract separately with the town.
As much as this agreement says we don't have to provide fire or police, the last time I looked at my cell phone, there was no "tribal emergency" number on it. When this facility comes on line there will be a 400% jump in emergency calls just like there was at Ledyard for Foxwoods. I appreciate that they will have their own staff - I just doubt how much it will lessen the impact on our services.
Section 17. Emergency Medical Services
See section 5B
Section 18. Building and Fire Protection Code
This was improved over the last agreement in that there is independent consultants reviewing construction and compliance. I don't understand why they can't just use the same building inspection process as everyone else. It's not a big deal and I recognize that this section is improved over the first agreement.
Section 19. Local Hiring and Purchasing Preference
Tribe will work in "good faith"(there's that phrase again) to employ Middleboro residents and use local vendors. These kinds of things are nice gestures, but since it does not have specified percentages I don't have high hopes that it will bring much benefit.
Section 20. Compulsive Gambling In Massachusetts
Tribe will provide and initial $40K and yearly $20K for gambling addiction.
This is an insulting amount of money compared to the social problems this facility is going to cause. This figure should be in the millions.
Section 21. Prohibited Activities
No underage gambling and drinking and no nude entertainment.
Section 22. Undertakings of the Town
This is the the clause I affectionately refer to as the KoolAid clause. We are agreeing to drink the tribal KoolAid - sacrifice our free will and work on the tribes behalf even when it clashes with our own self interests. It says we will:
Section 23. Tribal-Town Advisory Committee
Another improvement from the last go-round. Creates a tribal town advisory committee that is stacked in favor of the Tribe. The difference is that they are now only advisory where before they had real decision power. The makeup is unchanged:
- Provide municipal services similar to other town entities
- Support the project to get approvals, legislation, liquor licensing, etc from local, state, and federal officials.
So if the Tribe wants to build a 90 story hotel shaped the bottle in "I Dream Of Jeannie", we have to help them do it even if we don't want to. Why can we leave this out? If supporting an activity would be good for us, we'll support it. If it's not we won't. Why does this agreement feel compelled to take away our sovereignty
- Assist the tribe in responding to negative comments. Again.... Why?
- Work on behalf of the tribe (as a friend of the court) in any lawsuits. Again with the Free-Will-Begone. The improvement over the last document is that the Tribe will pay the legal fees. I still have issue with the whole idea but at least we don't have to pay for it ourselves.
At this point Adam Bond or some other lawyer type is reading this and silently accusing me of not knowing what I'm talking about. That's your fault. You are rushing this so much there is not time to read, digest, and ultimately have public discussions where misunderstandings about the agreement can be discussed. I sorry if I'm not a lawyer(well, no I'm not) but correct me and I'll amend this document.
Forward letters of support for the Tribe to put the land into trust Now why on earth do they need that in the agreement if they can "put it here with or without an agreement". Folks, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and ruins your town like a duck,,, it's a casino.
- Write letters to the Governor, Legislature, US Dept. of Interior and any politician they say encouraging them to allow class 3 gaming.
That's what this is all about folks. They need us more than we need them.
4 Tribal members
1 Town manager
1 chosen by the other 8
Section 24. General Provisions
As before this is full of scads of drool-inducing legalese but I'll try to pick out the interesting stuff.
One thing that really bothers me is that the agreement is not atomic. Meaning that if any piece becomes invalid then the rest of the agreement stands. This document has to be taken as a whole so that the intent of the document is not lost if a key component is invalidated for unforeseen reasons.
There is a bunch of stuff describing how lawsuits will be handled and I just don't have the time or expertise to determine if it is OK stuff.
There is the arbitration process. This might be stock stuff but it says that if a dispute winds up in arbitration, the loser will pay the expenses of the winner. Given the tribes legal resources and our lack thereof, I think that puts us at a distinct disadvantage in any legal dispute. Any lawyers care to correct me on that?
This agreement shall terminate if the Secretary of the Interior will not take the land into trust. Now why would we need a provision like this????.
The agreement shall terminate if gambling is ever stopped. I hated this the last time around and I hate it now. The town needs to have some say in what impacts and problems might arise in the future if this land becomes something else - like maybe a huge resort that just doesn't have gambling.
There is a good provision that protects us if our form of town government changes to a City type government.
There is a provision that if we enter into an agreement with another tribe, then we must give the Wampanoag and equally equitable deal. Fair enough and another improvement over the last agreement.
Back To Opinions