It is the kind of bonanza that was supposed to be prohibited by the federal
Indian Gaming Act when it was passed 20 years ago, say some US senators and federal regulators.
But the Mohegan Sun investors - led by Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman - found legal ways around provisions intended to make sure most casino benefits went primarily to tribes. And those loopholes remain open after a massive lobbying blitz by the $25 billion Indian gaming industry.
Worse yet, many of the Wampanoags in the tribe persuing the Middleborough location have raised concerns that Mohegan Sun's problems would only continue in Massachusetts.
Of course, this is only a new ingredient added to the corruption already brewing in Massachusetts over the Wampanoag casino - something the FBI has already been investigating, years before a shovel will ever hit the ground.
And some Mashpee Wampanoag tribal members say they are suspicious about the deal their leaders have struck with the same investors in Middleborough - a deal they have not been shown. Documents filed with the tribe's pending federal application for reservation status at the site do not disclose financial terms.
"They don't let us see anything," said Michelle Fernandes, a member of the tribe. "It's a big secret."
It also fits right in with Mohegan's efforts in Wisconsin, which have resulted in at least one top executive, Dennis Troha, being charged by the FBI for circumventing campaign finance law.
Transparency was Senator Montigney's chief concern and reason for skepticism over casinos. He wasn't interested in supporting any casino proposal if there's room for corruption. However, no matter how anyone slices it, there's absolutely, positively no way to regulate tribal casinos at the state level: we'd be dependent on the federal government to protect the Bay State's interests - and given the powerful casino lobby at D.C., the saying "fat chance," comes to mind.
The former developer of Kenosha's proposed $808 million casino project was indicted Thursday on federal charges for allegedly funneling $100,000 in improper campaign contributions to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who has final approval over Indian gaming in the state.
Dennis Troha, 60, of Kenosha, Wis., was charged with one count of fraud and one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office in Milwaukee said.
If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The indictment alleges Troha used family members and businesses he controlled to send money to Doyle's campaign during the 2002 and 2006 campaigns. Troha would lend money to the family members, who would then write checks to Doyle's campaign, allowing Troha to circumvent the $10,000 cap on political donations by individuals. The money was only repaid early this year after federal investigators began looking into the case, the indictment said. (Dan Gibbard, "U.S. Indicts Wisonsin Casino Figure, Chicago Tribune, 3/01/07.)
Given that the only leverage this state has over the casino lobby is the fact that we ban all Class-Three types of gambling, Massachusetts lawmakers should be even more skeptical than Senator Montigney when it comes to casinos and preventing corruption. Simply put, this state will have no way of regulating a tribal casino if we allow the construction of a single, legal and traditional slot machine, as that would open up the process for the Wampanoags to put their Middleborough land in federal trust to garner approval for a Class Three, Mega-Resort facility.
As reported in the second link on this blog, at the Boston Globe, the Wampanoags have already came to an agreement with these very same Mohegan Sun developers, the slimiest of the slimeballs around. When it comes to casinos and corruption, the two, unfortunately, go hand in hand. The question posed to Massachusetts residents should be if these are the kinds of headlines people here want to read for the rest of their lives. Not only will casinos be bad for the economy and bad for communities, but they're going to set a terrible trend for corruption at Beacon Hill, the likes of which have never been seen before.
Extra Credit Reading Assignment: Casinos clearly haven't done anything to improve the efficacy of Atlantic City's government, where five of the last nine mayors have been indicted and the city is now hiring an "Integrity Officer." Anyone know if Governor Patrick is going to hire any of them as part of his mitigation plans?