State Gambling Industry Faces Continued Defecit

Rolling the DICE ELECTION 94 Third in a three-part series

REVERE, Mass.--In two months, when the bell sounds and the last race is run here at Wonderland, Mary Sacca will sigh, pack up her programs and head for the door--probably for the last time.

In order to increase profit, the management of Wonderland Greyhound Park has decided to enact a series of cost-cutting measures, one of which is to lay off Sacca and many of her co-workers when winter arrives.

It is a sad, personal and real reminder of the effect that out-of-state gambling enterprise have had on local betting organizations such as Wonderland, where Sacca sells the daily race programs.

"There have been a lot of lay-offs here," Sacca says. "A lot of our business has gone down to the casinos."

Those casinos, for Sacca and others, are the problem. And some in Massachusetts are hoping to build another one.

The losses, both in attendance and net income, have been staggering for Wonderland since the Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo and Cassino opened its doors in February 1992.

And with Gov. William F. Weld '66 fully supporting a new casino, to be owned and operated by the Wampenoag tribe in nearby New Bedford, local gambling enterprises--even the venerable state lottery--are bracing themselves for more economic losses.

Planners of the Wampanoag casino are looking to spend $150 million on the project, which will include a casino, restaurants and a theme park.

Weld, the Wampanoags and New Bedford leaders have high hopes that the casino will be so successful that the area will be revitalized and thousands put back to work. But such success in exactly what existing gambling institutions fear.

Since opening two-and-a-half years ago on Pequot tribal land in Ledyard, Conn., Foxwoods has become the largest grossing casino in the United States raking in about $600 million annually.

"Foxwoods has hurt us, because we are all after the same dollar," says Robert Trieger, assistant general manager and director of communications at Wonderland Greyhound Park. "In five years, our attendance and handling has dropped 40 percent."

While Trieger blames the economy and the presence of other racetracks, he says the decline is primarily due to the mega-casino on the other side of the state line.

"Five years ago, we were probably handling $190 million; last year we handled $133 million," says Trieger.

At nearby Suffolk Downs Recetrack, the bleak financial figures are no different, say track officials.

"There is no question that there has been a decline since Foxwoods opened," says John Ramacy, publicist for Suffolk Downs Recetrack. "[There are] a lot of people who, if they don't gamble at Foxwoods would gamble it here."