And now it’s down to two. Much to the chagrin of Hard Rock, and to the delight of MGM and Mohegan Sun, the field competing for the sole casino license in Western Massachusetts shrunk by one yesterday. With a solid voter turnout in the special election in West Springfield, 55 percent chose to reject the casino proposal for their city. Springfield voters approved MGM’s proposal earlier this year, while Palmer residents will have their say on November 5 for the Mohegan Sun project there.
Across the state, the third time may be the charm for Penn National Gaming. First the company lost out for a casino bid in Springfield to MGM, then Tewksbury residents voted down a zoning change necessary for a slot parlor there. When the ownership of Plainridge Racecourse was deemed unsuitable for a gaming license last month, Penn National stepped in to save the day, arranging to buy the racetrack and getting approval for the transfer from both town officials and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. And yesterday, voters Plainville resoundingly approved a slot parlor, with 76 percent in favor of the project. Penn National still has to pass the Commission’s background check.
I have said all along that I would like to see Plainridge win the slot parlor license. If not for the (now) previous ownership who kept the place running, then for the horsemen who never gave up hope. It also makes a lot of sense as an existing gaming facility with much of the necessary infrastructure already in place.
Still in the running against Plainridge for the single slot parlor license are Raynham Park and the Cordish Cos., which has a location in Leominster. Residents there will vote on the project September 24. Last week the field was reduced by one when Neil Bluhm, Chairman of Mass Gaming & Entertainment, pulled out of a proposed project in Millbury, citing insufficient local support.
Raynham to me seems not the best choice given its immediate proximity to Taunton, the proposed site of a tribal casino. And while I’d prefer that the racetrack holding live racing (Plainridge) gets the license, to be fair, it wasn’t Raynham’s choice to end Greyhound racing – that business was taken from them by Massachusetts voters a few years ago. While I'm not necessarily a fan of Greyhound racing, and know the sport has declined dramatically in this country, to this day I remain mystified why voters were allowed to shut down an entire private industry.
For the Boston-area casino license, Milford officials last week signed a host community agreement with Foxwoods and set a November 19 election date. Suffolk Downs and its partner Caesars Entertainment reached host agreements with the cities of Boston and Revere last month. Suffolk expects to secure an election date of November 5 in both cities to coincide with the general election – always a good plan for a gaming issue. Everett has already given thumbs-up to a casino proposed by Steve Wynn.
No application has yet come forth for the Southeast region, which may or may not be awarded depending on progress on the tribal front. The deadline is September 30.