The eyes of the gaming world are on Massachusetts this week. The state’s Gaming Commission is expected to announce the winning bidder for the lone slot parlor on Friday after several days of public hearings presenting the results of the evaluation process. And on Tuesday, voters in Revere, Mass., again approved a casino at Suffolk Downs. That paves the way for a showdown between partner Mohegan Sun’s bid and Steve Wynn’s nearby Everett resort proposal for the single Boston-area casino license, which should be decided by late spring.


Three sites are in the race for the slot parlor – one in Leominster proposed by the Cordish Group, one at Plainridge Race Course (Penn National Gaming) and one at Raynham Park (with partner Greenwood Racing). The evaluation process included five key categories: Overview, Finance, Economic Development, Building and Site Design, and Mitigation. On Tuesday, the Commission discussed the Finance and Building and Site Design evaluations. The possible ratings included outstanding, very good, sufficient and insufficient.


For building and site design, both Leominster and Plainridge received sufficient/very good ratings. Leominster excelled in its design for an upscale entertainment center, while Plainridge was top-rated for its marriage of harness racing and gaming to provide a variety of amenities. Raynham received an insufficient/sufficient rating, with the committee members describing it as a “large box” without well-defined amenities.

            
On the financial front, Plainridge with its Penn National ownership came out ahead with a very good/outstanding rating. Rated very good, Leominster was close behind. Raynham again trailed with a sufficient/very good rating. As part of the financial assessment, each facility’s gaming performance projections were evaluated. Plainridge was rated highest for reasonable expectations once additional competition from the full casinos comes into play. In general, Penn National got high marks for developing a thorough understanding of the Massachusetts market in which it would operate a slot parlor at Plainridge.


Pending release of the other category evaluations, Plainridge and Leominster would appear to be in the lead for the license award. The economic development evaluations will likely be quite influential. And Plainridge is the only one of the three that supports another significant industry – harness racing. As such, it may have an edge in terms of sustaining an existing industry that already provides jobs and economic benefit beyond the actual race meets.