Lyndon Johnson Would Have Smiled Knowingly at this Rule on MA Casino Property Deals

Friday, April 18, 2014

“I can at least make the son of a bitch deny it,” Lyndon Johnson would say when he was Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.

“It” was something unsavory and/or regrettable in the background of someone who was standing in Johnson’s way.  “It” only had to be within the realm of possibility, not unquestionably true.
Johnson or one of his minions would feed the negative info to a compliant news person.  Soon enough, the Leader’s adversary du jour would get a call.  It did not matter if he meekly conceded the information was true or vehemently denied it.  There’d still be a story.  As a headline, “Senator Smith Denies Beating Wife” is as irresistible as “Senator Smith Admits Beating Wife, Expresses Remorse.”

When the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to make the parties who are selling properties to casino license bidders swear that no criminals will profit from the deals, I’m sure the commissioners did not have Lyndon Johnson’s tactics in mind.  It’s only a coincidence that the commissioners have come to stand in the footsteps of the great Texas arm-twister.
A cloud hangs over one of the co-owners of a property in Everett where Steve Wynn hopes to build a casino because that person reportedly declined to sign a statement affirming that no criminals will make anything on the deal.  The co-owner in question is not signing that statement “under the advice of his criminal counsel,” according to the Boston Globe.

A $1.5 billion casino project and the hopes of an entire city for a massive, multi-year casino pay-out hang on this question of an unknown law-breaker profiting or not. 
By so far avoiding the question, the co-owner has forced the gaming commission to infer that someone with a record will make a buck. 

If the situation remains unchanged, the commission will either have to invalidate the effort and funds Wynn has expended in Massachusetts or change one of its key policies.    
The commission wants to ensure that all property transactions are pristine and that every consequence of those transactions is pristine, too.   Depending how you feel about casinos, you bow to their ethics or you shake your head at their wooly idealism.

The commission is holding Wynn accountable for: (a) the people he’s doing business with, and (b) the people doing business with the people he’s doing business with.  Wow.
You can be sure Wynn is tearing his hair out over this.

As quoted in a just-published article in CommonWealth Magazine, Wynn is not happy that the state’s casino-enabling legislation requires casinos to withhold taxes from the proceeds of any patron who wins $600 or more, and he will likely try to amend that part of the law if he secures the eastern Massachusetts casino license.  The withholding issue is small beans compared to the policy denying land-sale profits to anyone with a felony conviction.
[Sticking for a moment with this digression, here’s the question from CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl about withholding taxes from casino winnings and Wynn’s answer.  Mohl:  “One of your concerns is a requirement that anyone receiving winnings of $600 must pay withholding on those funds at the casino.  Why is that bad?”  Winn: “You can’t do that.  You can’t treat everybody like they’re a deadbeat dad when they cash out $600.  That’s like everybody is presumed to be a bum.  A table-gaming person comes in three days in a row.  He loses on Friday.  He loses on Saturday.  He loses $10,000, but wins $600 on Sunday.  He’s lost $9,400 and they take taxes out.  My customers won’t put up with that and I won’t be a part of it.  It’s an outrageous mistake.”  To see more, please go to:]

You can be sure Carlo DeMaria, the mayor of Everett, is tearing his hair out over this.
DeMaria is so concerned that the project could implode on this one issue that he quickly came up with a plan to have the city purchase the casino site and resell it at the same price to Wynn.  That’s one big hoop for the taxpayers of Everett to jump through, but maybe not so big when you consider the many millions the city will get from Wynn up front and every year afterward from his casino.  Big paydays sometimes require big leaps.



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