Voters in Plainville and West Springfield are set to decide whether they want to host gambling facilities, with one Plainville official calling it the most important vote the town has ever faced.
On Tuesday, voters in Plainville will decide whether to go forward with a proposed slots parlor at the Plainridge harness race track. The state gaming commission ruled Friday that Penn National Gaming could assume a host community agreement with Plainville after the current owners were disqualified by the commission for financial improprieties.
“Tuesday is the most important vote in the history of this town,’’ Arthur Roy, chairman of the town’s Board of Election Registrars, told the Globe in article published Sunday, as he urged voters to cast a ballot. “Nothing less than 100 percent participation will do.”
Penn National — unsuccessful in two previous bids to enter the Massachusetts gambling market — announced last week it had signed an option to purchase Plainridge and would honor the terms of the previous agreement.
Three other companies are bidding for the sole Massachusetts slot parlor.
A referendum also is scheduled for Tuesday in West Springfield on Hard Rock’s proposal to develop a casino at the site of the Eastern States Exposition. If voters approve, Hard Rock will likely be competing with MGM Resorts in Springfield and Mohegan Sun in Palmer for the sole western Massachusetts resort casino license.
In an article in Sunday's Globe West, Mary-Ann Greaner, a vocal opponent of the Plainville proposal, said the law clearly stipulates there should be 60 days between the time a host agreement is signed by an applicant, in this case Penn National, and when the community holds a vote.
“It’s not subjective, either they signed it or they didn’t, and they didn’t,” she said. “We don’t know anything about Penn National. We believed the law was going to protect us from things like this.”
But Eric Schippers, Penn National senior vice president of public affairs, said Tuesday’s vote is simply asking residents whether they want a gaming facility at Plainridge.
“It’s up to the Gaming Commission to decide whether Penn National is suitable,” he said.
Penn National’s Schippers and town officials told the Globe that the host community agreement in Plainville is the best it has negotiated. It includes revenue to the town from the development of $4.5 million a year for the first five years of operation, with a slight decrease in years six through 10, and then an increase to $3.3 million annually starting in year 11. It also includes 300 construction jobs, and 400 full-time positions, and improvements to Route 1 and I-495 to mitigate traffic issues.
“Look at $31 million in Boston and the $4 million in a community of this size, and I’d say that’s a good agreement,” Schippers said.
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