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Casino developers could be filing first data by October

The state gambling commission is targeting mid-October for when it will open the application process for casino companies interested in competing for development rights in Massachusetts, which will begin a two-step approval that would take a minimum of one year.

Stephen Crosby, chairman of the panel formally known as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, presented the draft timeline at a commission meeting Tuesday. He cautioned several times that the tentative time estimates are very rough, intended only to give “a general sense of schedule” to help guide municipal officials who are receiving overtures from potential casino developers. With the opening of the application process still several months away, local officials should not feel pressured to rush their review of projects or their negotiations with developers, he said.

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In the first step of the application, potential developers would be required to submit financial data and personal information for key casino officers and owners, which the commission will review to weed out any applications with character problems or troublesome balance sheets. Developers who want to compete for a casino license will be required to pay a $400,000 application fee, required under the law, which would go toward the commission’s investigation into the applicants.

Under a best-case timeline Crosby envisioned, the commission would need several months to review potential applicants before opening the second phase of the competition, in which the board will ask for specific design projects. That could happen as soon as next April. His forecast, assuming no major delays, sees the commission potentially choosing the winning projects in October 2013. “I don’t think it can be much faster than that,” Crosby said in an interview.

In the meantime, the commission is moving ahead toward hiring an ombudsman to serve as a contact person for potential casino developers who need information from state agencies, as well as the first person for municipal officials to call with questions about how to handle casino proposals in their communities.

Commissioners also showed interest Tuesday in hiring a high-level employee to oversee the panel’s efforts to prevent and treat problem gambling. The commission heard testimony at a forum on Monday from two recovering addicts who described their destructive bouts with problem gambling.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark
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