Another casino project crashed and burned this week, as Milford voters declined to authorize a casino in their backyard. Although Foxwoods and partners had come to an agreement with the town, it was never easy, and neighboring towns had been quite vocal in their opposition to the project from the beginning.
So that potentially leaves only two resort casino bids standing, one in the Western region and one in the Boston area, but Suffolk Downs is still scrambling to rise from the ashes with a new partner and a new project confined to Revere. The racetrack straddles Revere and East Boston, and voters in the latter city voiced their disapproval of the project. In addition, Mohegan Sun will get a recount in Palmer next week – the vote was very close there.
And the two projects still clearly in play – MGM in Springfield and Wynn Resorts in Everett – have not even passed the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s suitability test. That is no easy task either, as Caesars Entertainment found out so abruptly last month. MGM’s hearing is set for December 9, and a tentative date for the Wynn hearing is December 16.
Just to prove it’s always entertaining here in Massachusetts, a new wrinkle surfaced this week with news that there’s a federal investigation underway about possible criminal ownership of the land on which the Everett casino would be built. Wynn announced it is amending its land option agreement to clearly confirm ownership and to cut the option price to reflect fair-market value.
Early in the casino licensing process, the Commission lamented the seeming lack of applicants for a Boston-area license. Then there were three, but we may be back to one, and there’s even the possibility of none. And what once seemed a highly competitive region out west has also come down to one, with again the possibility of none. In a related move, a grassroots effort to repeal the casino act is making progress to put a question on the 2014 ballot.
Requiring local voter approval is nothing new in the gaming industry, but it doesn’t happen too often. And in some cases, when at first they didn’t succeed, a second effort passed. That won’t be an option in Massachusetts, unless any regional license is not awarded this time around. In contrast, local approval won’t be required in New York, where voters statewide just supported a measure that authorizes up to seven commercial casinos in the state. I guess those nine pesky racetrack casinos weren’t enough. After all, they only brought in $832 million for education during the last fiscal year.
One news source in New York published an interesting summary of the county-by-county vote. Apparently Saratoga County voted no to gaming expansion. And guess what, there’s a very good chance that Saratoga will be exactly where one of the casinos ends up, given the success of the existing racetrack casino there and its designs on becoming a full casino.
It’s never easy, and no casino operator really wants to be where it isn’t wanted, but it’s a lot less cut-and-dried without a formal vote.