With a deadline looming at the end of the month for final applications for resort casino licenses in Massachusetts, the state’s gaming industry regulators have delayed a key decision on the fate of one project. The decision will determine how many competitors will vie for the lone casino license available in the greater Boston area.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is weighing whether to allow a casino project at Suffolk Downs in Revere to go forward without a second voter referendum and whether to accept Mohegan Sun as the new license applicant for the project. After the five commissioners deliberated publicly during a meeting Tuesday, commission chairman Stephen Crosby said a vote would be taken next week.
A majority of the panel, including Crosby, appeared to favor allowing the project to go forward with the final application process.
The project is under close scrutiny by the commission because the original plans called for the resort casino to straddle the communities of Revere and East Boston. The project got a split decision on November 5th, with Revere voters approving it and East Boston voters saying no.
After the referendum results, officials with Suffolk Downs said they would design a new casino development entirely on the Revere side of the property. Mohegan Sun was brought on as the proposed owner-operator of the casino after the Connecticut-based company lost a November 5th referendum to build a casino in Palmer by 94 votes.
The Suffolk Downs casino proposal has changed since November 5th, but Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said it was not a substantially different project.
Only Commissioner James McHugh voiced reservations about allowing the project to move forward without a second voter referendum.
If the commission were to order a second referendum it would essentially kill the project since there would be no time to hold a vote before the December 31st deadline for the final license applications.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo told the commissioners that there is strong support for a casino in the city. He pointed to the strong turnout for the November 5 referendum and a unanimous vote by the city council for a required zoning change
Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said a lot of details still need to be worked out, but if the commission accepts Mohegan as the new license applicant the company will meet the December 31st deadline.
Wynn Resorts, which won a voter referendum in June to build a casino in Everett, is the only other competitor for the lone casino license available in the greater Boston area.
MGM Springfield is now alone in pursuing the only casino license in western Massachusetts.
But neither company has passed a strict background check. The gaming commission has scheduled a suitability hearing for MGM on December 9.