The Massachusetts Gaming Commission says it’s going to continue its work of reviewing casino proposals, even though a question on the November ballot will ask voters whether the state law that allows casinos should be repealed.
“As the Commission has demonstrated in the past, we have the flexibility to achieve progress in the licensing and regulatory process even in an atmosphere of uncertainty and we will continue to do so,” Steve Crosby, the commission chairman, said today in a statement.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that the casino repeal question can be placed on the ballot. A fierce campaign is expected over the proposal in the coming months, pitting pro- and anti-gambling forces.
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission respects the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the citizens of the Commonwealth to vote on the repeal of expanded gaming in November,” Crosby said. “Although the Commission has not taken a position on the repeal, we are committed to implementing the law as it currently exists in a manner that is participatory, transparent and fair.
The commission has already authorized a slot machine parlor at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville. In addition to authorizing the slot parlor, the 2011 state casino law created three resort casino licenses, which have not yet been issued.
The state gambling commission this month chose an MGM Resorts proposal in Springfield as the winner of the Western Massachusetts casino resort license, but did not formally award the license due to MGM’s concerns about the repeal effort. The company did not want to be on the hook for some $200 million in obligations that will be triggered when the gambling commission officially grants the license.
The sweepstakes for the Boston-area license is between two rival projects: a Mohegan Sun casino plan at Suffolk Downs in Revere and a Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett. State regulators plan to choose the winner later this summer.
The resort license created for Southeastern Massachusetts is scheduled to be awarded in 2015. Casino projects have been proposed in Fall River and New Bedford.
The commission is holding “host community” hearings this afternoon in Revere and Wednesday afternoon in Everett, intended to give the commission the opportunity to pose questions to the applicants for the projects there and address concerns.
About 400 people attended today’s meeting. They included about 50 people who stood at the entrance of Revere High School and held blue-and-white signs with the Mohegan Sun emblem that read, “Better for Massachusetts.” The demonstrators included painters, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians from Boston-area unions.
Daralyn Reardon, a bartender at Suffolk Downs, held a Mohegan Sun sign. She’s worked for the track for 23 years. She lives in Revere and accepts the idea of a public vote.
“It’s going to take a little longer to pass, but I think putting it to a vote is probably fair. I mean everybody has a right to vote and this will make a final resolution. This way nobody can come back at us another time and say that there wasn’t a vote. It’s just the way it has to be,” said Reardon.
“We’re in this for the long haul. We’re a part of a campaign that will be fighting to vote down that referendum to make sure that gaming in Massachusetts and all of the jobs and development that are associated with it take place,” Mitchell Etess, chief executive of Mohegan Sun, said before thehearing.