Slot parlor developer sets sights on Leominster

The city known as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed could become the cradle of the Massachusetts casino industry.

With time running short to find a viable site, a Maryland casino developer is pitching a slot parlor in Leominster, at a site near the junctions of Routes 190 and 2 in the north-central Massachusetts community, a company official has confirmed.

The Cordish Companies — developer of Hard Rock casinos in Florida and the Maryland Live! Casino, just outside Baltimore — is scheduled to brief Leominster officials tonight on its plans for the $200 million project, said Joe Weinberg, Cordish managing partner.

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Cordish, one of four applicants for the state’s sole slot parlor license, has long been interested in the northern half of the state, and has unsuccessfully proposed a slot parlor in Boxborough and in Salisbury. Cordish prefers a northern location in part to be far from resort casino projects planned for Greater Boston and a tribal casino proposal in Taunton.

The stakes are rising for Cordish to find a community to embrace its plans. To meet deadlines set by the state gambling commission, Cordish needs to strike a deal with a host community within the next several weeks.

A Cordish project in Leominster would have as many as 1,250 slot machines, a live performance venue, several restaurants and other amenities, said Weinberg.

The other applicants for the slots license are Plainridge Racecourse, in Plainville; Raynham Park; and Rush Street Gaming, which has not yet announced a new site after failing to strike a deal with Worcester officials.