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Casinos compete for Massachusetts gambling licenses

After Massachusetts opened its doors to the gaming industry in 2011, 11 firms have applied to receive extended gaming licenses to expand into Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has received applications from a number of entities interested in the opportunity, including MGM Springfield, Penn National Gaming, Inc., Plainridge Racecourse, Hard Rock MA, Wynn, LLC, Mohegan Sun, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, Raynham Park, Mass Gaming Entertainment, LLC, PPE Casino Resorts and Crossroads Massachusetts, LLC.

The Expanded Gaming Act sparked the need for an application process in November 2011.

Elaine Driscoll, MGC director of communications, said the act was passed in an attempt to bring more jobs and increased revenue to the state.

“With the arrival of expanded gaming, it is expected that there will be an additional 8-to-10 thousand construction jobs created by the builders of the gaming facilities, 8-to-10 thousand permanent jobs, and then $300-to-$500 million in increased revenue,” she said.

The MGC has employed multiple teams that will conduct in-depth background investigations for all category one (resort casino) and
category two (slots-parlor) gaming license applicants.

The teams are made up of gaming experts who have experience in many types of investigations, Driscoll said.

In the investigations, team members will uncover each company’s history in other jurisdictions, financial stability, recent litigation
and compliance plan and history, Driscoll said.

Before making any decisions, they will also analyze officers, board members, and key investors of the applicant, looking for employment history, criminal records, education, stockholdings and finances, she said.

Driscoll said investigations would take six months to complete at most and that the process will not be easy for applicants. Along with the application, they each pay a non-refundable fee of $400,000.

“I would say that ultimately it will be a very competitive process,” she said. “Right now, however, we’re in a phase when we’re determining their own suitability.”

Kelley Tucky, vice president for community and public affairs for MGM Resorts International, said she remains confident despite the intense level of difficulty and competition.

“We have been really inspired and energized by the local partners and supporters,” she said in a phone interview. “We’ve had hundreds of volunteers who have visited our community office and they have offered to write letters, to put up yard signs, and to simply be our ambassadors, so we feel very confident about the opportunity there.”

Tucky said the community is attracted to the 300,000 jobs MGM Resorts has promised to the community.

“In a city where economic development is a number one priority, jobs fit that bill,” she said.

Phase two of the application process is expected to be released in summer 2013, and will deal with the applicant’s site-specific plans.

MGM has already decided its location would be in Springfield, Tucky said.

“The city has significant cultural and business amenities already in place, such as Union Station, MassMutual Center, and Symphony Hall,” she said. “And the proposal we’ve put together supplements those existing cultural and business jewels — if you will — that are already in Springfield.”

Philip Hebert, president of the Palmer town council said he has “mixed feelings” about the potential of a large gaming facility moving into town.

He has no qualms about the increased jobs and revenue Mohegan Sun would bring if it were chosen, but he has great concerns about
increased traffic and crime brought on by a greater population.

Despite his own opinions, the decision is one the entire Palmer community will make, he said.

“It’ll have to be a community agreement along with input from the council in concern for the citizens,” Hebert said. “It’s going to be
put to referendum vote, and it could either go on from there or just be done with it. The ultimate vote comes right down to the people. We can’t override their vote, nor should we.”

Town decisions will have to be made after the end of 2013, when slots-parlor licenses will be awarded, and on Feb. 26, 2014, when the first resort casino licenses will be awarded, according to a Jan. 11 MGC press release.

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