Massachusetts gaming expansion cost Nevada firms plenty

The casino industry — including several companies with ties to the Strip — spent roughly $11.4 million over the past five years in lobbying Massachusetts lawmakers to approve casinos, according a review of records by the Associated Press.

A Las Vegas-based subsidiary of Wynn Resorts Ltd., Development Associates LLC, spent more than $863,000 on lobbying in the past three years, the records showed. Las Vegas Sands Corp. spent nearly $473,000 on lobbying.

In November, after a lengthy debate, lawmakers approved a bill that legalized three Las Vegas-style casino resorts and a slot machine parlor. The move opened the state to legalized gambling roughly 20 years after casinos opened in neighboring Connecticut. It was the largest single expansion of legalized gambling in Massachusetts since the state lottery was created 40 years earlier.

The bill allowed for a single casino in the Boston area, a casino in southeastern Massachusetts and one casino in any of the four counties in Western Massachusetts.

According to the Associated Press, overall spending on lobbying steadily increased year after year as pressure built to approve a gaming bill. In 2007, the total lobbying tab on the casino issue was nearly $1.3 million. By 2011, that grew to more than $3.1 million.

Many of the companies that lobbied hardest for the expanded gambling law are now actively pursuing the three casino licenses.

The company that spent the most on lobbying was Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, which runs the Suffolk Downs racetrack and is hoping to turn the East Boston facility into a destination casino in partnership with Caesars Entertainment Corp.

From 2007 to 2011, the racetrack spent more than $2.8 million on lobbying, according to the Associated Press review.

Wynn is also seeking the Boston-area license. He is in partnership with Robert Kraft, owner of the National Football League’s New England Patriots, for a casino in Foxborough adjacent to the team’s stadium.

Las Vegas Sands has not formally entered the Massachusetts casino derby.

M Resort owner Penn National Gaming spent nearly $197,000 on lobbying during the past five years, while MGM Resorts International spent $60,000. The companies are vying for the Western Massachusetts license along with Las Vegas-based Ameristar Casinos, which wasn’t listed in the report.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which has until July 31 to negotiate a gaming compact with the state for the southeastern license, spent nearly $850,000 on lobbying expenses in the past five years.

Developers seeking a casino license are required to pay $85 million for the license and invest $500 million into the project.

The state will have a 25 percent tax on gaming revenues.

Yet to be appointed members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will choose which casino proposals get the licenses and will also to regulate and investigate the new gaming facilities.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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