The Massachusetts Gaming Commission Tuesday set the end of February 2014 as the outside date for awarding the first casino license in the state. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports..
The state’s gaming industry regulators discussed a master schedule which commission chairman Stephen Crosby described as prudent.
The background checks on the casino license applicants is the most time consuming part of the schedule, pegged to take a minimum of six months. The draft master schedule calls for the investigations to begin in January.
Springfield agreed to modify its casino selection competition process to satisfy concerns raised by the commission. Springfield city officials are hoping to hold a vote in June on a casino development.
The gaming commission will issue one license for a resort casino in western Massachusetts. Mohegan Sun is expected to file an application for a casino license in Palmer. Industry officials have estimated it would be three years from the time a casino license is issued to the opening of the first casino in Massachusetts.
Springfield officials have set an October 10th deadline for casino operators to file initial proposals with the city. Two companies, Ameristar and MGM Resorts International have previously announced plans to build resort casinos in Springfield. Two other companies, Penn National Gaming and Hard Rock International are said to be developing projects, but have not made any public disclosures.
Springfield will require the casino operators whose projects pass an initial review by city officials to pay the state a $400,000 non refundable application fee. That money is used by the gaming commission to fund the background checks on the casino operators.
Commissioners today were scheduled to discuss an opinion from the Massachusetts Ethics Commission that said a gaming consultant working for Springfield is not breaking state law. The consultant, Shefsky and Froelich , is a registered lobbyist in Illinois for two of the casino operators hoping to build projects in Springfield, MGM and Penn National.
Springfield city solicitor Ed Pikula said the ethics commission’s finding validates the city’s casino selection process.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has strongly defended the choice of consultants with ties to the gaming industry, saying he needs their expertise.
The consultants are being paid $125,000.