Bay State players ante up

An artist's rendering of the block in downtown Springfield that MGM International proposes to develop as a resort casino, with a hotel tower at rear. Mohegan Tribal Gaming is competing for the single western Massachusetts licence with its proposal for nearby Palmer.

Mohegans are matched against three other firms for a single resort casino license as deadline for Massachusetts gambling applications nears

Boston - Eleven firms hoping to compete for licenses for resort casinos or a slots parlor filed initial applications and non-refundable $400,000 application fees before a Tuesday deadline, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced.

Four groups waited until the final day to submit applications, joining seven others that had previously filed.

A surprise last-minute entry was PPE Casino Resorts, affiliated with the principals of Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. The firm had not publicly expressed interest in Massachusetts before.

Also submitting an application on Tuesday was Crossroads Massachusetts LLC, which is seeking to develop a casino in Milford but likely will face formidable competition for the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license with Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, who has proposed a complex in Everett, and the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred track in Boston.

Others filing on Tuesday were Mass Gaming & Entertainment, an affiliate of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, and a group seeking to open a slots parlor at Raynham Park, a former dog racing track.

Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said the field of applicants will assure "robust" competition for licenses and help achieve "absolute maximum benefits in job creation and economic growth to the residents of the commonwealth."

The state's 2011 casino law allows for up to three resort-style casinos in different regions of the state and one slots-only facility. The commission said it planned to spend several months investigating the financial qualifications and backgrounds of the Phase 1 applicants for "good character, honesty, integrity and financial suitability."

Investigative teams, including former FBI agents and prosecutors with experience in corruption and organized crime, will delve into each of the companies and their key officers and investors, including their histories in other states and any past legal issues. Applicants cleared by the commission will then be invited to participate in a more competitive phase of the licensing process that is expected to begin later this year.

Four companies are vying for the sole western Massachusetts casino license. MGM International and Penn National Gaming have proposed casinos in Springfield, Hard Rock is looking to build at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield and Mohegan Sun has plans to build in the town of Palmer.

PPE Casino Resorts and Mass Gaming & Entertainment filed applications without saying where they intended to build or whether they would seek licenses for resort casinos or the slots parlor. The commission did not require such a declaration as part of the Phase 1 process.

"We are very enthusiastic about the Massachusetts market and look forward to working with the State and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on our application," Joe Weinberg, managing partner of PPE Casino Resorts, said in a statement.

Cordish Cos. has been involved in the development of several casinos, including Maryland Live!, which opened last June in Hanover, Md.

Mass Gaming & Entertainment said it was evaluating "a select number of sites" in the Boston area and would make an announcement later.

"When developing our properties, we pride ourselves on customizing each project to the surrounding area and collaborating with the host community and other interested parties to build unique entertainment destinations," said Greg Carlin, the firm's chief executive.

The company was formed by Neil Bluhm, chairman of Rush Street Gaming, which operates casinos in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Des Plaines, Ill., near O'Hare International Airport.

Raynham Park will be vying for the slots parlor license with the Plainridge harness race track in Plainville, which filed its application with the commission several months ago.

George Carney, the park's president, said that he was confident he could win the competition."If you're going to be in a fight and you think you're going to be beat, you might as well stay home," he said.

Carney has partnered with Greenwood Racing, which operates Parx Casino and Racing, Pennsylvania's largest gambling facility.

Four entities that did not meet the Tuesday deadline requested waivers that the panel is expected to consider at its next meeting on Thursday. They were identified as Good Sam's Casino Inc., WM Development Co., The Seafan Trust and the city of Chicopee. The waivers are expected to be difficult to obtain.

The casino law gave preference in a third region, southeastern Massachusetts, to a Native American tribe. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is pursuing a casino in Taunton.


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