Slot parlor applicants go head-to-head-to-head on Monday
The state’s emerging casino industry reaches a milestone Monday, when the three competitors left standing in the bruising Massachusetts slot machine parlor sweepstakes make the case for their projects in live presentations before the state gambling commission and the public.
The 90-minute presentations, expected to combine facts and statistics with some measure of razzle-dazzle and salesmanship, mark the end of a long application period and the true beginning of the winner-take-all contest for the first license under the 2011 expanded gambling law.
First up, at 10 a.m. Monday, will be the Cordish Cos., a Baltimore firm, presenting its plan for a slot parlor in the north-central city of Leominster, near the junction of Route 117 and Interstate 190. The voters of Johnny Appleseed’s hometown endorsed the Cordish proposal in a September referendum, with about 62 percent in favor.
Next up, at 12:30 p.m., will be Penn National Gaming, with a proposal to expand and remake the state’s only harness racing track, Plainridge Racecourse, in Plainville, at Route 1 and Interstate 495, about 5 miles south of Gillette Stadium. Seventy-six percent of Plainville voters endorsed the plan in a referendum.
At 2:30 p.m., Raynham Park, with partner Greenwood Racing, will present its plans to the commission. The simulcast betting parlor and former dog racing track is on Route 138 in Raynham, near the junction of 138 and Interstate 495. About 86 percent of local voters backed the project in a referendum.
The presentations, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and streamed online at the commission’s Web page, will begin the commission’s evaluation of the projects.
Each project will be judged in several categories, including the financial potential of the project and the financial strength of the applicant, the economic development potential of the project, the design of the building and grounds, and how each project addresses potential problems, such as traffic and compulsive gambling.
The commission hopes to issue the state’s only slot parlor license by the end of the year, though the timeline could push into 2014. Under state law, the slot parlor can have up to 1,250 slot machines but no live table games. The minimum investment from the developer is $125 million. The facility will pay 49 percent of its gambling revenue in state taxes.
The three finalists have survived a difficult application process that whittled down the field. Ourway Realty, the original applicant at Plainridge Racecourse, was bounced from the competition in August, after the gambling commission declared the owners unsuitable to hold a casino license. That decision followed revelations that Plainridge’s former president had taken more than $1 million from the track’s money room over a number of years.
Penn National, which in August saw its proposal for a Tewksbury slot parlor defeated at Town Meeting, swooped in and secured an option to buy the track.
An affiliate of Rush Street Gaming, the casino company of Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm, made a deal with Millbury officials to build a slot parlor there, but withdrew a few weeks before a scheduled referendum, citing a lack of community support.
The gambling commission also controls licenses for three resort casinos, with no more than one allowed in each of three regions of the state.
Casino development rights in Greater Boston and Western Massachusetts are expected to be awarded in spring. Contenders that fail to win may try again in the southeast region, which is on a later timetable.