Plan calls for slots parlor in Danvers
DANVERS — A Baltimore company that was a last-minute applicant for one of Massachusetts’ gambling licenses is considering a 100,000-square-foot slots parlor at Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, town officials said.
PPE Casino Resorts, run by Cordish Cos., contacted the town this month about the possibility of building a 24-hour slots parlor, Selectman Dan Bennett said.
Bennett believes the proposal would bring more traffic. “I have a lot of concern about the traffic,” he said. “Where they want to put it is difficult to get to, as it is.”
The slots parlor would be at the rear of the mall, where Marshalls and the facility’s food court are located.
The initial proposal calls for an approximately 50,000-square-foot addition. The slots parlor would have up to 1,250 machines and be open 24 hours, Bennett said Saturday.
The main artery leading to Liberty Tree and the Northshore Mall in Peabody — Route 114 — is lined with auto dealerships, restaurants, and stores, making it a slow drive. The state recently completed upgrades at routes 62 and 35, helping to clear a logjam leading to the area.
PPE Casino Resorts was one of 11 gambling companies that submitted a $400,000 application fee to the state gambling commission this month.
Over the next year, the commission will recommend awarding three casino licenses and one slots parlor permit in the state. The three casinos will be assigned to Greater Boston and the southern and western sections of the state. The slot parlor can be anywhere.
In an e-mail, a PPE Casino Resorts spokeswoman, Ashley Miller, would not comment on the Danvers plan and referred the Globe to a Jan. 15 company press release. It included a statement from Joe Weinberg, the company’s managing partner. “We are very enthusiastic about the Massachusetts market and look forward to working with the State and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on our application,” he said.
PPE Casino Resorts was one of two companies, along with Rush Street Gaming, of Chicago, that did not specify a license type or location in their applications. To date, two other companies have applied for a slots license: Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville and Raynham Park LLC, in Raynham.
Cordish has developed several other casinos, including a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and one in Tampa, Fla. The company also opened the Maryland Live Casino in June in Hanover, Md.
Spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the state commission expects to award the slots parlor permit in the fall, and the three casino licenses in February 2014.
Driscoll said the minimum requirement for a slots parlor is a $125 million capital investment; there is a $25 million initial license fee. The slots parlor will pay 49 percent of its gambling revenue in taxes.
The host municipality will have the right to approve or reject a proposal through a voter referendum and would negotiate agreements that could include financial compensation from the gambling facility.
Surrounding municipalities also have authority to negotiate agreements to address their concerns.
A spokesman for Simon Property Group, owner of the Liberty Tree Mall, said he had not heard anything about a casino plan.
“We never comment on sales or acquisitions, but in terms of the casino I haven’t heard anything,” said Les Morris, director of property relations.
The mall sits on 83.5 acres and opened in 1972.
Around Danvers, the reaction was mixed.
Bennett, the selectman, said Liberty Tree should stay in operation as a mall.
“I don’t think it’s the highest and best use of the property,” he said. “It’s a retail shopping center, and that’s what it should remain, in my opinion.”
Late last week, Town Manager Wayne Marquis acknowledged that a gambling company’s representative had called him twice in the previous two weeks, but he declined to specify which company he had spoken with.
He said he had informed selectmen about the contact.
Kyriakos “Kary” Andrinopoulos, co-owner of New Brothers Restaurant and Deli in Danvers Square, said he would welcome a gambling facility in town.
Andrinopoulos, who is the Danvers Rotary Club’s honorary mayor of Danvers, believes that a $125 million investment would mean more jobs and more money for the community.
“It could also mean lower property taxes, which would be good for businesses and people who own homes,” he said.