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Plainridge, other applicants, make their arguments for slots parlor

Posted by Your Town  October 7, 2013 05:45 PM

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With the pot containing the state’s lone slots parlor license, three competitors on Monday pitched their geographic desirability, ability to fund and quickly construct a facility and past performance.

Penn National Gaming, seeking to develop the Plainridge Racecourse, said its proposal would preserve harness racing and the agriculture network that goes into that sport, while its Plainville location would “cut off” Bay Staters heading to Twin River in Rhode Island.

Parx Raynham highlighted the proposed South Coast Rail station next to its property, a former dog track that developers said could open the first phase of a slots parlor by next July.

Cordish Companies in Leominster said its location in north-central Massachusetts would give it some market exclusivity, while the company would be able to build a slots parlor without financing and contribute additional funds toward a medical devices business accelerator.

“We are going to have a very tough choice,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, after each of the three final applicants made their presentation Monday. He said the commission would make its decision by the end of December or the “first week or so of January.”

Salesmanship styles varied, with Penn and Cordish presenting videos of what the company could offer, while Parx introduced an array of vice presidents and consultants to make the case.

Cordish Chairman David Cordish said his proposal for Leominster would tap into a relatively uncrowded gaming market, help boost the economy in a “gateway city” and could be constructed without borrowing by a company that has “built more ground-up casinos with higher revenues” than about any other company in the country.

“I don’t want to quibble whether we’re one or two,” Cordish said.

George Carney, the long-time owner of Raynham Park who partnered with Greenwood Racing, said the first phase of the Parx Raynham slots parlor could be built by next July, and if Plainridge lost the license and closed he would plan to resume harness racing in Brockton.

“We can be open within six months of the commission’s decision,” said Greenwood CEO Anthony Ricci, who said the project includes a second phase with a new building, which would receive $125 million in financing from Credit Suisse.

Jay Snowden, the senior vice president of operations for Penn and a former Harvard starting quarterback, said the racino would tap into Penn’s loyalty program, partner with local businesses and host Doug Flutie’s Sports Pub, a venture by the former Boston College quarterback.

“We’ve been working with him on this concept for several months now,” said Snowden, who said the one-time Patriot’s backup QB would display his Heisman Trophy at the track for some of the year.

Each developer made overtures to green initiatives, with Parx saying it would commit to LEED Silver, Cordish discussing plans for wind and solar energy, and Penn sustaining the farms and trails that are part of the horse racing industry.

Cordish, which said it owns rights to the term “Live!” would additionally fund a UMass Lowell and UMass Worcester medical device company accelerator based off the M2D2 program.

On Thursday, the Gaming Commission voted to extend to Oct. 31 the deadline for slots applicants to submit agreements they have ironed out with surrounding communities.

Cordish President Joseph Weingberg said the Leominster proposal has the support of the closest community to the project.

Penn, which took over the racino proposal after cash-room withdrawals bounced Plainridge from applying on its own, has met with officials in Mansfield, Wrentham, Foxborough, North Attleboro.

Parx has designated Taunton and Easton as surrounding communities and is “close” with one, and made “good progress” with the other, a Parx attorney told the commission. Taunton has already worked out a host community agreement with the Mashpee Wampanoag, which hopes to build a Indian casino in the city.

Under the terms of a gaming compact, which is set to come up in the House on Wednesday, the Mashpee would owe less if a slots parlor opened in the southeast region. Taunton and Raynham border one another.

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