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Marlboro casino eyed by developer.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - While the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe presses forward with its plan to build a casino in Middleboro, Sheldon Adelson, majority shareholder and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., told the Telegram & Gazette yesterday that he remains interested in building a resort-style casino "in the Marlboro area," off Interstate 495.

"It's up to the government, the governor and the Legislature," Mr. Adelson said of the decisions facing the state over whether to allow casino gambling. His comments came after a two-hour private meeting at the Statehouse yesterday with House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, who has opposed expanded gaming in the state in the past.

Mr. Adelson, now considered the third-wealthiest person in the United States with more than $20 billion in assets, maintains a home in Newton. He emphasized that he spoke with Mr. DiMasi about the pending decisions over casinos yesterday, both as a concerned resident and a casino developer.

"I care more about what happens in Massachusetts with all my family here. I told the speaker and I'd tell the governor, I put on two hats. One is my resident hat. My other is my commercial hat. They are two different things," said Mr. Adelson, who grew up in Dorchester. "I am a Massachusetts resident. I still have a home here. My ex-wife came from Worcester."

Asked if he was preparing to develop a full-scale resort casino here at this point, he said, "If the state wants to do it, yeah."

"Whatever happens, happens. It's up to the government," he said noting his company, which operates the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, and is completing the $2.2 billion Venetian Macau Casino in China, is well-suited to build a casino in the Bay State.

"We are the biggest real estate and casino developers in the world. We are developing 60 million square feet right now," Mr. Adelson said, adding that he believes Massachusetts would be an excellent location for a casino.

"Look what is going on in Connecticut," he said of the success realized at the two casinos opened in that state in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is pushing for a resort casino in Boston at Suffolk Downs. New York City developer Richard Fields, now the largest investor in Suffolk Downs, developed a casino with the Seminole tribe in Florida and wants to develop a resort casino at the well-known Boston track.

Mr. Adelson has met previously with Mr. DiMasi to discuss casino plans. On May 21 he met with state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Daniel O'Connell as Mr. O'Connell was completing a comprehensive study of social, economic and other issues posed by possible casino development in Massachusetts for Gov. Deval L. Patrick.

That study is believed to contain analysis of casino experiences in many other states across the country, as well as scenarios and options the state could pursue in terms of how many casinos, what types and where they may be allowed. It was delivered to the governor last week.

The governor said he is currently studying the report now and will use it as he reaches a decision on whether to support casino gambling, which is expected at the end of August. His office rejected a request by the Telegram & Gazette to publicly disclose the gaming study this week, saying he was using the report as a policy document while he makes up his mind on whether to allow casino gambling.

Federal recognition of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe earlier this year set the stage for new consideration of casino gambling in the state, with that tribe pressing for negotiations with the governor over an agreement that would allow them to open a casino.

Town meeting voters in Middleboro on Saturday overwhelmingly approved an agreement that would allow the tribe to develop a casino on several hundred acres the tribe has secured there, also off I-495.

While the governor has insisted he has not made up his mind on casino gambling here, his interest in considering the option, and federal recognition of the Mashpee tribe has brought the issue to the fore.

Mr. DiMasi, who led opposition in the House that overwhelmingly defeated a Senate approved plan to allow slot machines at the state's four race tracks last year, has not said how he would view the new casino proposals, if the governor decides to pursue a compact allowing the Mashpee tribe to build a casino or other expanded gaming options this year.

Some House Republicans, however, believe that Mr. DiMasi's reluctance to approve expanded gambling remains the key barrier facing casino proposals here at this point.

House Assistant Minority Leader George N. Peterson, D-Grafton, who supports casino gambling, said last month he believes Mr. DiMasi will continue to block casino gaming in the state. "My sense is the speaker does not want to expand gaming in the commonwealth, period," Mr. Peterson said.

Dave Guarino, spokesman for Mr. DiMasi, said yesterday's meeting was not the first time Mr. Adelson and the speaker have sat down to discuss his interest in casino development here.

At this point, he said, the speaker "is waiting for the governor's report."

During his visit to the Statehouse, Mr. Adelson also met and chatted briefly with state Rep. John J. Binienda Sr., D-Worcester, who told the casino magnate how much he enjoyed the Venetian in Las Vegas when he visited there.

The meeting: A two-hour private meeting was held at the Statehouse yesterday bewteen Adelson and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, who has opposed expanded gaming in the state in the past.

The player: Adelson, now considered the third-wealthiest person in the United States with more than $20 billion in assets, maintains a home in Newton.

The quote: `Whatever happens, happens. It's up to the government.' - Sheldon Adelson

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Mr. Adelson (2) Mr. DiMasi (3) Mr. O'Connell (4) Mr. Patrick
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 2, 2007
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