The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is holding a series of meetings in Boston this week to discuss policy issues as members progress towards the development of rules and regulations which will guide the second phase of the casino licensing process. Preliminary applications for the first phase are due January 15. In addition, the Commission will hold a casino design forum on Wednesday morning. And in Springfield, MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming will be presenting their casino plans in a public meeting Tuesday evening.

Springfield lost one potential bidder recently when Ameristar Casinos dropped out; the company had actually purchased land in the city earlier this year. But MGM and Penn National remain formidable competitors for the sole Western Massachusetts license, where the field also includes Mohegan Sun’s proposed Palmer casino.

MGM’s project is an $800 million resort complex in downtown Springfield, and Penn National’s plan calls for a casino and hotel in the northern part of the city.

Meanwhile, there continues to be buzz regarding a possible competitor for Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment for the Boston-area casino license. And the state has gone back to the drawing board with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe after the compact approved last summer was rejected at the federal level.

For the sole slot parlor license, Plainridge Racecourse is the obvious player, and it has already paid the $400,000 up-front licensing fee. Raynham Park, the former greyhound track that is currently a simulcast facility, is also considered to be a contender, and recently a developer came forward with a proposal for Milford.

Although the initial applications are due January 15, it will likely be next summer before the second-phase applications begin – the parameters for the second phase will be the end result of the Commission’s policy meetings this week. These meetings are being shown live on the web.