Eleven applications have been filed for lucrative gaming licenses in Massachusetts. Companies that want to develop resort casinos or a slots parlor had to meet a 5PM Tuesday deadline to file paperwork and a non-refundable $400,000 fee with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby was thrilled. He said the state is primed to achieve maximum job creation and revenue from its fledgling gambling industry.
The gaming commission is authorized by state law to issue up to one resort casino license in each of three geographic zones and one slots parlor license that can go anywhere in the state.
The most competition for a resort casino license is in western Massachusetts, where there are four applicants. MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming want to build in downtown Springfield. Hard Rock International is proposing a resort casino on part of the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield. And, Mohegan Sun has long cultivated a project in rural Palmer.
Earlier this week, Mohegan Sun defied speculation it might be out of the running, when CEO Mitchell Etess announced a partnership with a New York investment firm.
In the eastern zone, Caesars Entertainment is partnered with the Suffolk Downs race track in Boston to seek a resort casino license. Wynn Resorts wants to develop a former industrial site in Everett and a third company is in the bidding with a site along I-495 in Milford.
Commercial casino development is on hold in southeastern Massachusetts to allow the Wampanoag Indians to finalize a project.
The owners of two defunct dog racing tracks in eastern Massachusetts are competing for the slots parlor license. Developers from Chicago and from Maryland each turned in an application that did not specify a project.
Chairman Crosby confirmed that two companies, Paper City Development, which is trying to put together a casino deal in Chicopee and Good Samaritan Casino Corporation, which had design on Holyoke, requested an extension of the filing deadline
Up next on the schedule is a thorough background check on each applicant. Clyde Barrow, of the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth, who is a casino industry expert, believes each will pass tough scrutiny.
The gaming commission does not expect to issue a casino license before February 2014, and by then the gaming landscape may have changed.
The Springfield City Council voted unanimously this week to hold a city-wide referendum on casino development when the time comes. State law gave Springfield the option to hold a binding vote only in the ward where the casino would be built. Mayor Domenic Sarno long insisted on a city wide vote.
Sarno, and a team of advisors and consultants are reviewing detailed plans form MGM and Penn National. Sarno is expected to decide by the end of the month whether to negotiate a host community agreement with one or both of the casino operators.