Raynham Park owner wants part of casino action

Gerry Tuoti

Raynham Park owner George Carney wants to bring a resort casino to the dog-track site in that town.

After Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday proposed licensing three full-scale casinos in Massachusetts, Carney said he will "positively" bid for a casino license.

His plan could potentially clash with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and its financial backers, who want to put a $1 billion destination casino in Middleboro.

Carney commended the governor for advocating for expanded gaming.

"I was hoping he'd put in slots for the dog track," Carney said. "But in the event we're not able to get that, we'll put in an application for a casino at the dog track."

Under Patrick's plan, three casino licenses would be awarded in a public bidding process open to commercial developers and Indian tribes. There would be a limit of one state-licensed casino in each of three designated regions: western Massachusetts, southeastern Massachusetts and metropolitan Boston.

Patrick, who has proposed large spending projects such as a $1.4 billion commuter rail expansion to New Bedford and Fall River and a $1 billion stem cell bank, said casinos would bring the state $2 billion in annual revenue.

"With that kind of economic benefit, we cannot reject the gaming industry out of hand," Patrick told the Associated Press. "Destination resort casinos can serve a useful role in our overall economic plan."

Before the bidding process could start, the state Legislature would need to approve expanded gaming in Massachusetts.

Patrick's plan follows a proposal by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a resort casino on land it recently bought in Middleboro.

The tribe could either try to outbid others for one of the proposed state licenses, or continue along a longer path to win federal approval under the Indian Gaming Act, which could result in a fourth casino in the state.

The tribe plans to continue seeking federal approval, but may ultimately decide to bid for a state license, Mashpee spokesman Scott Ferson said. "They reserve the right to do so," he said.

But others don't see Patrick's plan as necessarily positive for the Mashpee's proposal.

"I think it adds more layers to the Middleboro route right now," said Casino Facts president Richard Young.

Jim Reynolds, who has been active in Casino Facts, a group opposing the proposed Middleboro casino, said he thinks a casino in southeastern Massachusetts will likely end up being located near New Bedford, where some city officials have publicly advocated for a gaming resort.

State Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, whose district includes both Raynham and Middleboro, said he thinks any casino plan should require mitigation measures for the host and neighboring communities. Local approval should also be a prerequisite for entering the bidding process, he said.

Awarding a casino to a developer in one town could deal a blow to a neighboring town in the region, Pacheco said.

For example, a Middleboro casino could have an adverse effect on business at Carney's dog track, which supplies the town of Raynham with a percentage of its handle.

"Same thing with Middleboro," Pacheco said, explaining that a Raynham casino could prevent Middleboro from hosting a resort.

Carney vowed the Raynham dog track, which has generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for Raynham over the years, will continue to go strong.  "I've been in the business for 50 years, I've had people working for me for 40 years," he said. "I'm not giving up. I have no intention of throwing in the towel."