With few exceptions, companies hoping to win gaming licenses in Massachusetts are having a tough time of it. On Tuesday, two more bids appeared to go down in flames. I say appeared because Suffolk Downs is considering its options after one city voted down its proposal while the other passed – the property straddles the two cities. And Mohegan Sun has asked for a recount after losing by just 93 votes in Palmer, citing technical problems with one voting machine.
I’ve been pondering the news since the election results became known. I first felt tremendous sadness for what may likely be the death knell for Suffolk Downs. And it’s hard to say how much of an impact the Caesars debacle had on the votes. If you look at neighboring Everett, a whopping 86.5 percent of the voters approved Steve Wynn’s project. 59 percent of Revere voters approved Suffolk’s proposal – a solid margin but one that pales in comparison; 56 percent of East Boston voters rejected it.
Revere’s mayor wants to proceed with the project if Suffolk Downs can rework it to fit on the 52 acres within his city. Time is running out, however, as the reworked application is due December 31. At least the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is open to the idea. There is precedent – Plainridge Racecourse made an 11th hour change in its application after its original ownership was declared unsuitable for a gaming license by the Commission.
Out west, if the Palmer vote stands, MGM Resorts International’s Springfield bid is the last one standing – Hard Rock lost an election in West Springfield in September. And MGM has yet to be declared suitable by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. You can’t help but wonder if the Commission found problems with Caesars, cleared in jurisdictions around the world, what is in store for MGM?
The Commission’s actions are causing a stir throughout the gaming industry. There are rumblings that the Wynn organization is very unhappy with some of the comments and is threatening to pull out of its project in Everett. At this stage one can even imagine a casino environment without any of the major players – and that would be a far cry from the world-class resorts envisioned by the initial legislation and the voters who approved casinos for the Commonwealth in the first place.
One thing is sure – residents may like the overall idea of casinos and the jobs and revenue they provide, but Massachusetts has fallen victim to the “not in my backyard” syndrome. Now we wait and see what will happen in Milford – the vote there for Foxwoods’ casino proposal is set for November 19.