At least one racetrack will live on in Massachusetts. On Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission offered Penn National Gaming the license for a slot parlor at Plainridge Race Course, subject to the company accepting certain conditions. Friday morning, those terms were accepted, and a final vote by the commissioners awarded the license unanimously.
It was originally a close decision, however, with the commissioners voting 3-2 in favor of Plainridge, with the Leominster proposal by the Cordish Companies coming in second. Part of what convinced three commissioners was the continuation of harness racing, which supports a broader industry. Penn National’s experience and knowledge of the market also helped sway the decision.
As the Commission announced the formal award on Friday, those who had originally voted for the Leominster proposal whole-heartedly endorsed Penn National. They cited the company’s superior track record of mitigation and responsible gaming, two issues that are top of mind here in the Commonwealth. Penn National indicated that the gaming facility would likely open in the second quarter of 2015.
With any luck this establishes an odd precedent for Suffolk Downs in its quest for a full casino. Plainridge’s bid came to a halt when its previous ownership was found unsuitable. Penn National stepped in to purchase the facility, having found itself on the outside after failed gaming bids elsewhere in the state. Suffolk faces a similar situation – its first partner, Caesars Entertainment, was found lacking by the Commission, so the track had to scramble. Enter Mohegan Sun, which lost its own chance when voters in Palmer rejected its casino bid there. Then East Boston voters rejected the project, so yet another about face brought a new plan to locate the casino solely on the Revere part of the property. Revere residents heartily approved the project both times they voted.
As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.