Shuffle Up and Deal: Casino Licenses Officially Awarded After Casino Law Repeal Fails

Massachusetts Gaming

By E. Abim Thomas

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously voted to formally award the Regions A and B resort casino licenses to Wynn MA LLC and MGM Springfield, respectively, a process which had been delayed until after the election on November 4, when voters rejected a ballot question to repeal the state’s casino law.

The Commission’s first meeting since the vote, began Thursday morning with a statement by Chairman Crosby recognizing the desire to win the support of the 40 percent of voters who sought repeal of the law.  He acknowledged the Commission’s dedication to address problem gambling, and the work ahead to reach out to the newly elected governor, treasurer, and attorney general.

MGM Springfield’s President Michael Mathis accepted the Region B license, stating that it has already employed the first workers for the project with its soil-testing that began on Wednesday.  Wynn Resorts Senior Vice President Robert DeSalvio told the Commission that the company is committed to the Commonwealth and is excited to get the project started, and as such wired the $85 million licensing fee that morning.  DeSalvio then presented the Commission with a giant game-show style mock check, after which MGM responded, “ours is on the way.”

Both casinos plan to break ground in 2015, with openings anticipated by 2017.  The $85 million from each license recipient will add to the $25 million already received from Penn National as a result of its award of the state’s sole slots parlor license.  The casino licensing fees will go toward various state funds including education, tourism, and local aid.

The Commission’s Region C (Southeastern Massachusetts) license is still outstanding, but the Commission voted to once again extend the deadline for applications for the last remaining resort casino license.  In support of extension, Ombudsman John Ziemba stated there was “substantial interest” in applying, but some potential applicants were hesitant to spend significant funds on applications prior to the repeal vote and that there was not enough time between the vote and the earlier deadline of December 1 “to promote the most robust competition.”

With a 3-2 vote, the Commission extended the initial application deadline and the site-specific application deadline for Region C by two months, with exact deadlines to be determined at the next meeting.

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