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First Massachusetts slot parlor approved for Plainridge Racecourse

Penn National Gaming chief executive Jay Snowden was all smiles Thursday as the Gaming Commission headed to a vote.
Penn National Gaming chief executive Jay Snowden was all smiles Thursday as the Gaming Commission headed to a vote.Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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The state’s tumultuous effort to launch the casino gambling industry took a giant leap forward Thursday, with the gambling commission’s milestone selection of Penn National Gaming to build the first slot machine parlor in Massachusetts, at Plainridge Racecourse.

Penn’s $225 million proposal to expand the state’s only harness racing track, at Route 1 and Interstate 495 in Plainville, into a slot machine parlor won a 3-to-2 majority in a vote of the five-member commission.

Penn narrowly edged a highly rated proposal in Leominster by Cordish Cos. A third applicant, Raynham Park, received no votes and did not heavily factor in the debate.

Penn officials are wasting no time, scheduling a design and construction meeting in Plainville on Monday. They expect to open for business by spring 2015.

Penn won on the strength of its experience running 27 US facilities, which commissioners suggested makes Penn better suited to weather competition and any downturns in the economy. Commissioners also put weight into the fact that the project would preserve the state’s harness racing industry.

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