The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday refused to reconsider its 2016 denial of a proposed casino in Brockton, leaving no project with a clear path to approval for the state’s final resort casino license.
Mass Gaming and Entertainment, a venture backed by Chicago real estate magnate Neil Bluhm, had sought to reintroduce its plans for a $677 million casino at the Brockton Fairgrounds in light of the legal struggles of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which has been trying for years to build a $1 billion casino in Taunton.
But in a 3-1 vote, the commission declined to review the plan for a second time. Cathy Judd-Stein, the commission chairwoman, said she had not seen “sufficiently changed circumstances to warrant a motion for reconsideration at this time.”
She left the door open to a future bid, however, perhaps as part of a wider search to bring a full-fledged casino to the region south of Boston.
Still, the decision came as a disappointment for Brockton, which has looked to the project as an economic catalyst. Mass Gaming and Entertainment had projected that the casino would create 1,800 permanent jobs and contribute millions annually to a city sorely in need of tax revenue.
At the hearing, Brockton Mayor Moises M. Rodrigues implored the commission to give the casino plan another look and said a rejection would be “a severe miscarriage of justice when it comes to providing the fourth-largest city in Massachusetts with resources and opportunities.”
“That’s all we’re asking for,” he added.
Representatives of Mass Gaming and Entertainment told the commission that restarting the bidding could mean years of delay.
“I don’t know how long you expect us to hang around for Brockton,” Bluhm said.
He declined to comment after the decision.
A spokesman, Joe Baerlein, said later that the company will wait to see what the commission does next and hopes it moves quickly to give the project another chance. He said the company did not know there would be a final vote on the project’s request Thursday.
In 2016, the commission rejected the Brockton project, citing concerns about its design and the proximity of a prospective Taunton casino, less than 20 miles away.
At the time, the Mashpee had just broken ground on their tribal casino, which would not require state approval. But since then, the tribe has been dealt a series of legal and regulatory setbacks, putting the plan on indefinite hold.
Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in 2011, allowing full-service casinos in the eastern part of the state, in Western Massachusetts, and in the southeast.
The Mashpee’s quest has become an issue in Washington, where the tribe is lobbying for support. Senator Elizabeth Warren and US Representative William Keating, who support legislation that would secure the tribe’s land as a reservation, have been at odds with President Trump and some Rhode Island congressional representatives, who oppose it. A measure has cleared the House but faces a difficult road to final passage.
Rhode Island has casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton that would compete directly with a tribal project. Proponents of a Brockton casino say the project would help keep more gambling revenue in Massachusetts.
But recent data suggested that the gambling market in New England may not be as lucrative as once hoped. Casinos in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have been reporting disappointing revenue figures.
The state’s first resort casino, MGM Springfield, has been behind projections. Early figures for Encore Boston Harbor, which opened in June, also showed revenues on pace to fall short of expectations, although the latest numbers set to be released next week may tell a different story.
Further complicating matters are several other proposals to expand gambling in Southeastern Massachusetts, including some that would require legislative changes.
Public officials in Plainville have called for adding table games to the Plainridge Park slots casino. A developer is pitching a plan for a horse racing and entertainment complex that would include slot machines in Wareham. And leaders of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe are wrangling with officials in the Martha’s Vineyard town over plans to open an electronic bingo hall there.
Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.