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Gambling panel gives conditional approval to Plainville slots proposal

The state gambling commission has given conditional approval to a proposal to site the state’s new slot machine parlor in Plainville.

The five-member panel voted 3-2 today to approve the proposal by Penn National Gaming, subject to a number of administrative conditions. Penn National must get back to the commission by 9:30 a.m. Friday to indicate that it accepts the conditions. If it does, the commission will take a final vote to approve the proposal.

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Penn National, which plans to build a facility at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, edged out a proposal by Cordish Cos., which had proposed a project on Jungle Road in Leominster.

For Commissioner Gayle Cameron, the preservation of harness racing in Plainville —and the farm jobs and open space associated with the industry — offered “a great value” that solidified her support for Penn National.

“This is an exciting moment. We’re doing it, and we’re doing it with a quality team,” said Commissioner James F. McHugh. McHugh voted against the proposal because he supported the Cordish proposal, but said, “We have two really strong applicants here” and his “philosophical differences” with the Penn National proposal didn’t “detract from my enthusiasm.”

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Each of the commissioners had overseen a review of one of five different aspects of the proposals. They presented their findings in hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

The commissioners this morning disclosed their positions and discussed them before voting. Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, who also supported the Cordish proposal, was unsuccessful in persuading any of the three commissioners in the majority to join his side.

The state’s expanded gambling law, passed in 2011, authorized as many as three resort-style casinos and one slot parlor permitted to have 1,250 machines. The slot applicants also offered restaurants and other amenities.

The slot parlor license will cost $25 million; the slot parlor will pay a 49 percent state tax on gambling revenue.

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