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Gambling commission rates three applicants for Massachusetts’ only slot license

The first ratings are out for applicants hoping to open the first slot machine parlor in Massachusetts under the state’s expanded gambling law, and Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming are leading out of the gate.

In the category of building and site design, Cordish’s Leominster project and Penn’s Plainville proposal were both rated “sufficient to very good.”

The Leominster proposal “excels with its approach to a balanced entertainment venue,” according to evaluations led by state gambling commissioner James McHugh. Cordish’s late 2014 completion date, however, may be too optimistic, according to the ratings released this morning by the gambling commission.

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Penn’s plan presents a “visually attractive track and open space,” though the project could face delays over traffic plans that need federal approval.

The third applicant, Raynham Park, was rated “insufficient to sufficient” in the category, with complaints that the design is “essentially a large box” and the landscape plan “lacks detail.”

The state’s expanded gambling law, passed in 2011, has authorized three casinos and one slot parlor in the state. The gambling commission is expected to vote to award the slot parlor license by the end of this week, paving the way for a facility with as many as 1,250 machines.

Each of the five commissioners has been assigned a particular aspect of the proposals to study. They have been huddling with experts for months and are presenting their findings this week before they take their vote.

The three slots parlor proposals all received “sufficient” ratings across three subcategories of building and site design: security, progress toward permitting and plans for future use. The commission today posted on the Internet the documents detailing its findings, although some financial information has been redacted.

In a second category to be reviewed today — finance — Penn National earned the highest ranking in a review led by commissioner Enrique Zuniga.

Penn was ranked “very good/outstanding” in the category while Cordish earned a ranking of “very good” and Raynham Park was rated “sufficient/very good.”

In the category for amenities, the Cordish project clearly was the winner.

“Leominster rose above the others offering a well-defined performance venue, the best restaurant features, and providing the most robust floor plan details,” according to McHugh’s report.

Penn’s project clearly won the subcategory on “sustainable development.”

“The stormwater plan utilizes the track infield for full on-site retention and exceeds best practices,” the report states.

The license will cost $25 million; the developer must spend at least $125 million on the project. The slot parlor will pay a 49 percent state tax on gambling revenue. The only wild card: casino opponents are seeking a court ruling to put a repeal of the gambling law on the November ballot.

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