The Bay State’s first casino would probably open in 2016 or later, under the state gambling commission’s most conservative timetable for issuing the casino licenses it controls.
Consultants working for the commission identified Feb. 26, 2014, as the latest date by which the commission intends to award the state’s first casino development license. The commission released the date Tuesday as part of a tentative schedule for milestones along its lengthy process to write rules for the casino industry and to evaluate proposals from developers.
Industry specialists say casino resort construction can typically take two years or longer.
In January, for instance, MGM Resorts International chief executive Jim Murren estimated a 30- to 36-month construction period for his company’s project. At the time, MGM planned to build in Brimfield. The company has since switched locations and proposed a gambling and entertainment complex in downtown Springfield.
A three-year construction period would push the opening of casinos to 2017.
Under the state’s 2011 casino law, the gambling commission can issue development rights for up to three gambling resorts and one slot machine parlor.
Stephen Crosby, the commission’s chairman, said the five-member panel will do everything possible to shave time off the schedule and award the first license sooner, perhaps before the end of 2013.
The commission will look to get ahead of schedule and save time in its background checks on applicants for casino licenses.
The panel’s consultants have scheduled nine months in 2013 for the background investigations, according to a flow chart the commission released Tuesday. Crosby urged potential developers to complete their application forms and submit the necessary documents as soon as possible after the forms are released in early to mid-October. The commission will begin investigations as soon as they get the first forms back, which could save time.
“Give us the tools to start sooner,” said Crosby.
The deadline for submitting applications is the end of 2012. Each applicant will need to provide the commission with company financial data, as well as personal data on company officials, key employees, and investors. The commission and its consultants will investigate applicants to ensure that each is financially stable and has no people of questionable character in key positions.
It can often be a difficult process, consultants warn, because applicants often disagree with the state over which employees need to be vetted, and the panel may need to hold hearings to sort out the scope of its investigation. Also, while major gambling companies are accustomed to background checks and probably have the relevant information at hand, the commission will also be investigating investors, many of whom may be new to the industry.
While the background checks go on, the commission will work on regulations governing the operation of casinos and the competitive selection process for casino proposals.
Mark Arsenault can be reached
Follow him on Twitter