Tribe: Pull plug on electric table games

Plainridge features blackjack with virtual dealers, cards


AS MASSACHUSETTS’ FIRST GAMBLING FACILITY prepares to open near the end of June, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is asking Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate gambling rules they say conflict with state law and the tribe’s negotiated compact with the state.

The tribe argues the 2011 gambling law does not allow table games, electronic or otherwise, at a slots parlor. Table games typically include blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. News stories about the Plainridge slots parlor, which is preparing to open, have focused on electric games of blackjack.

“The tribe hereby respectfully requests that the Attorney General’s Office investigate this matter and advise the commission to rescind or amend its regulations,” wrote Howard Cooper, an attorney with Todd & Weld LLP, in a letter to Healey. Cooper said the regulations need to be brought into compliance with the 2011 state gambling law and the tribe’s compact to operate a casino, which was negotiated based on the law.

A Healey spokeswoman said Thursday that the office is reviewing the matter, while Massachusetts Gaming Commission chair Stephen Crosby told reporters the agency would cooperate.

The gambling regulations, approved by the Gaming Commission in 2014, cover the type of machines allowed in a slot parlor and the number of people allowed to play them at one time.

Penn National Gaming is scheduled to open a slot parlor in Plainville on June 24, operating under the name Plainridge Park Casino.

The facility, by law, is limited to having 1,250 slot machines, but the commission is allowing up to 1,500 gamblers. The commission says electronic table games, which give more than one player a chance to gamble, can be considered as slot machines.

Crosby said that when using an electronic table game a gambler is playing against a machine, same as a slot machine. The commission last year agreed some of the machines could have more than one gambler playing it, as Penn National requested.

There wasn’t an objection to the regulations during public comment period last year, Crosby added.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is waiting for federal land-in-trust approval so they can move forward with building a tribal casino in Taunton, a “short drive” from Plainville, according to Cooper.

“We can look at our regs at any time, that’s why we’re perfectly happy to cooperate with the AG,” Crosby said. “If they think there’s something to look at, we’re more than happy to look at it.”

Crosby also expressed confidence in the commission’s deliberations last year.

“I’m very confident in our work and in our lawyering and in our process,” he said. “But I’m also open to talking about it.”

In the letter, Cooper said preliminary estimates point to a future tribal casino losing $30 million annually if Plainridge is allowed additional players and electronic table games.

In a separate letter to Crosby, Cooper asked him to delay a commission vote on Thursday on Plainridge Park Casino’s floor plan until the attorney general has a chance to review the regulations.

The commission pressed ahead, saying the vote didn’t deal with approving machines but the basic layout of the floor. The vote to approve the floor plan was unanimous.