Gaming Panel Gets Closer to Awarding State’s First Casino Resort License

FILE - This Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 file photo of an artist rendering provided by MGM Resorts International via The Republican shows part of a proposed casino complex in Springfield, Mass. MGM Resorts International was cleared by state gambling regulators on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, to pursue a casino in Springfield. The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued a positive determination of suitability for MGM, saying the company had met its standards in several areas including honesty and integrity, and financial stability. (AP Photo/MGM Resorts International via Springfield Republican, File)
An artist rendering provided by MGM Resorts International showed part of a proposed casino complex in Springfield, Mass.
AP

The group that oversees gambling in Massachusetts has begun taking the final steps in the process of awarding the state’s first license for a casino resort.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is in Springfield today evaluating MGM Springfield’s casino application to build and operate an $800 million casino resort in that city.

Today’s proceeding is the first of three scheduled evaluations and deliberations, including one tentatively planned in Boston on Thursday.

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Commission chairman Stephen Crosby issued a statement regarding the arduous undertaking by the panel:

"This is the culmination of an exhaustive competitive process in Western Mass that began with several high quality applicants and ultimately winnowed down to a single applicant. We look forward to sharing our findings with the public and are pleased to progress to this major milestone as we focus on facilitating the thousands of jobs and revenue benefits that await the citizens of the Commonwealth."

Bringing a casino resort to the state has been anything but smooth, if not controversial.

In April, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh asked for Crosby’s resignation, accusing him of bias against the city of Boston and its casino efforts.

As a result, Crosby last month recused himself from further involvement in issues concerning the licensing decision for Eastern Massachusetts.

The Commission last month also ruled that Boston will not be a host community for the proposed Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts casinos in either Revere or Everett. Host communities get to vote on whether or not to allow the casinos, and can demand significant compensation from casino developers.

All of these efforts could end up being in vain, however, if the Supreme Judicial Court rules that a voter referendum to repeal the state’s 2011 casino law — which gave the commission the authority to grant at least three regional casino licenses in the state — should be allowed on the ballot in November.

If the voter referendum is slated on the ballot, a group opposing gambling in the state is at the ready, organizing other like-minded groups to vote to repeal the law, reported The Boston Globe.

That point was emphasized last month in a poll that showed state residents want to be able to decide whether or not to allow gambling in the state.

Some casino proponents may also be concerned after a new poll was published Monday showing that support for casinos in Massachusetts is “declining, with more voters opposed than in favor of them.”

The American Gaming Association today released a national poll that has vastly different findings, however, saying that voters view casino gaming more favorably than ever before.

"Voters recognize that casinos are an economic driver that supports jobs and boosts growth in communities across the nation, and Massachusetts is already reaping the benefits that our industry delivers," said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

The Associated Press reported that the first casino license could be awarded in the middle of next month.