State gambling commission gives conditional approval to Plainville slot machine parlor proposal

The state gambling commission has given conditional approval to a proposal to site the state’s new slot machine parlor in Plainville.

The five-member panel voted 3-2 today to approve the proposal by Penn National Gaming, subject to a number of administrative conditions. Penn National must get back to the commission by 9:30 a.m. Friday to indicate that it accepts the conditions. If it does, the commission will take a final vote to approve the proposal.

Penn National, which plans to build a facility at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, edged out a proposal by Cordish Cos., which had proposed a project on Jungle Road in Leominster.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

For Commissioner Gayle Cameron, the preservation of harness racing in Plainville —and the farm jobs and open space associated with the industry — offered “a great value” that solidified her support for Penn National.

“This is an exciting moment. We’re doing it, and we’re doing it with a quality team,” said Commissioner James F. McHugh. McHugh voted against the proposal because he supported the Cordish proposal, but said both applicants were strong and his “philosophical differences” with the Penn National proposal didn’t “detract from my enthusiasm.”

Each of the commissioners had overseen a review of one of five different aspects of the proposals. They presented their findings in hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

The commissioners this morning disclosed their positions and discussed them before voting. Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, who also supported the Cordish proposal, was unsuccessful in persuading any of the three commissioners in the majority to join his side.

The state’s expanded gambling law, passed in 2011, authorized as many as three resort-style casinos and one slot parlor permitted to have 1,250 machines. The slot applicants also offered restaurants and other amenities.

The slot parlor license will cost $25 million; the slot parlor will pay a 49 percent state tax on gambling revenue.

Plans to have a racino — or racetrack and casino — at the Plainridge Racecourse, the only operating harness track in the state, seemed doomed in August when the commission ruled the current owners of the track unfit to hold a slot parlor license.

But the plan gained new life when Penn National secured an option to buy the 89-acre racetrack property at Interstate 495 and Route 1, about five miles south of Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.

And in September voters in the town overwhelmingly backed the plan.