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Governor Unveils Casino Plan Today

Gov. Deval Patrick's legislation to bring casinos to the state would give preference to bidders who partner with a Massachusetts Indian tribe, and would require approval from the communities where the resort-style casinos would be built, according to a source who was briefed on the governor's plan.

The legislation, which the governor planned to file Thursday, favors the newly recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which won community support this summer for building a casino in Middleborough, where it already has purchased several hundred acres of land. The tribe also has well-financed support from the former developers of Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

The governor's bill also carves out three geographic areas that would each get one license, and that could pit the cash-rich Las Vegas Sands Corp. against race track owners in Boston, a second source, who has seen details of the governor's bill, told The Associated Press.

The billionaire chairman of Las Vegas Sands is eyeing a Marlborough site for a casino, and owners of Boston-area racetracks want to build in the city. Under Patrick's plan, both Boston and Marlborough are in the same region and would get only one license, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the governor plans to detail his legislation at a news conference Thursday.

Middleborough would be in a separate region. A third region would include Palmer, where another casino has been proposed.

The bill would require bidders to own land and put up a minimum investment of $1 billion, the second source said, ensuring the proposals would be resort-style casinos. License auctions would be staggered, likely over a period of nine months.

Patrick, when he announced Sept. 17 his intention to file casino legislation, said at least one of the licenses would have "a Native American component,'' and said he would give special weight to the newly recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. It wasn't immediately clear if preference would be given to more than one license.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Indians also have declared that they would open a casino if the Mashpees do the same.

Daniel O'Connell, state secretary of housing and economic development, told Taunton area business leaders on Wednesday the governor's plan also would include a protection and mitigation fund for neighbors.

"It's very important for a host community to weigh the pluses and minuses and decide if they want this,'' he said, according to SouthCoastToday.com.

The filing of Patrick's bill Thursday is expected to kick into high gear the lobbying on both sides.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi has said he's skeptical of any plan to bring the "casino culture'' to Massachusetts.

Patrick, in earlier outlines of his plan, estimated three casinos would generate $450 million in annual tax revenue and 20,000 jobs.

As drawn, Patrick's map raises barriers for any Boston-area developer because they would have to outbid billionaire Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp, the world's largest casino company by market value.

Region 1 on Patrick's map includes Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties. Marlborough is on the western edge of Middlesex County. Suffolk Downs racetrack in Boston and Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere are in Suffolk County. Operators of both tracks have signaled they'll bid for a casino license.

Suffolk Downs is owned by Richard Fields, a former associate of Atlantic City casino developer Donald Trump. Fields partnered with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to build casinos there and bought Suffolk Downs this spring.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's proposal for a $1 billion resort casino in Middleborough sits in Patrick's "region 2,'' comprised of Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, and Barnstable counties, along with the islands.

The tribe's partners include Sol Kerzer and Len Wolman, the developers of Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. They've proposed a 850,000-square-foot complex that would include a 10,000-seat auditorium, a 1,500-room hotel, 4,000 slot machines, and a golf course.

Under Patrick's plan, the state's two other racetracks _ Plainridge Racecourse, a 91-acre harness racing facility in Plainville, and Raynham Park _ would have to outbid the tribe, as would any proposal from New Bedford.

The third region includes just about all of centeral and western Massachusetts: the counties of Worcester, Hampden, Franklin and Berkshire.

This region includes a proposal by developer Leon Dragone and the Mohegan Indian tribe, which runs Mohegan Sun, want to build a $1 billion resort casino on a 150-acre wooded site in Palmer, just off the Massachusetts Turnpike.

This program aired on October 11, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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