THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
< Back to front page Text size +

State Gaming Commission to decide if Tewksbury casino election required

Posted by Kathy McCabe  August 21, 2013 04:37 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

After Tewksbury voters on Tuesday soundly defeated a zoning change to allow Penn National Gaming to build a slots parlor, the state gambling commission on Thursday will decide if a Special Election scheduled for next month must still be held.

"The issue will be brought to the attention of the Commissioner's at tomorrow's meeting," Elaine Driscoll, the commission's spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mailed response to a question from the Globe. "They will discuss the matter and make a determination on how to proceed."

The state's gambling law requires a community to hold a local referendum, to allow residents of a community to decide if they want a casino located in their city or town. But the law, which requires a casino company to pay for the election, does not appear to address how to cancel an election. Tewksbury has scheduled its election for Sept. 21.

The five-member commission is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. at the commission's office on Washington Street. The meeting is open to the public.

Tewksbury's Special Town Meeting voted 1,568 voters against, to 995 in favor, on a zoning change that would have allowed Penn National Gaming to build the $200 million Merrimack Valley Casino at the Ames Pond Corporate Center, located just south of the Route 133 and Interstate 495 interchange.

The zoning change required a 2/3 majority, or 1,709 votes, to be adopted. Without the zoning, a casino on the land could not be built, and Penn National could not submit a final application, due on Oct. 4, for the state's one slot parlor license the commission is expected to award by the end of this year.

A spokesman for Penn National said Wednesday the company is evaluating its next steps, but supports cancelling the special election.

"Penn National is going to step back and take some time to determine what, if any, options they want to consider in Massachusetts," spokesman Will Keyser wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. "They will be closing the office in Tewksbury, and support the cancellation of the Sept. 21 election."

A spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees state election law, said its unclear how the state's election laws apply to the gambling statute.

"All these elections come under the gaming commission law," said Brian McNiff, the spokesman. "This is all new territory . . But, unless the gaming commission procedures have some sort of mechanism (to cancel ), in general, once an election is called, it must be held."

A local community may seek special state legislation to cancel a preliminary election, but only if there are not enough candidates on the ballot to warrant holding the election, he said.

"Special legislation is required for that," McNiff said. "But I really don't know if that's feasible here."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article