Having secured host community agreements and votes of approval, the three slots parlor applicants are reaching beyond the borders of the municipalities where they hope to locate and seeking to wrap up agreements with neighbors before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awards the lone license.
Slots applicants in Raynham, Plainville and Leominster are each seeking to designate surrounding communities ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline, when municipalities can petition the commission for the status.
“The surrounding community schedule has always been the wild card,” Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby told reporters. He said, “Having the surrounding communities have a fair shot is more important than meeting our deadlines.”
After Oct. 31, the commission can take an indeterminate amount of time to decide whether a nearby city or town qualifies as a surrounding community, Crosby said. A designation would trigger a 30-day negotiating period, and if that period expires without an agreement, the commission would begin a 30-day period of binding arbitration.
Cordish Companies, seeking to build a slot parlor in Leominster, has entered negotiations with seven municipalities that want surrounding community agreements, and has heard from an eighth. Cordish President Joe Weinberg said he did not believe there would be any impact in the neighboring communities.
“While we don’t believe we’re going to have impacts on our neighboring communities we would rather work cooperatively with our neighbors,” Weinberg told the commission Thursday. He declined to disclose the identities of the communities to the News Service and said none have yet received the official designation.
Penn National Gaming, hoping to build on the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, has designated Wrentham, Foxborough, Mansfield and North Attleboro as surrounding communities. Plainville also borders Rhode Island.
Wynn Resorts had originally sought to build a casino in Foxborough before local elections of anti-casino selectmen convinced the company to look elsewhere. Penn officials said Foxborough leaders are primarily concerned with problem gaming, while Wrentham worries about public safety needs and North Attleboro is focused on traffic.
Penn National Vice President of Public Affairs Eric Shippers told the commission that it would calculate the “net negative” effects of a slots parlor, determining “how everyone has benefitted on the up-side” as it seeks to “weigh the good and potential bad.”
Parx Raynham, a venture between Greenwood Racing and the former Raynham Park dog track, has designated Easton and Taunton as surrounding communities and has had some contact with a total of 10 nearby communities.
“We may designate one or two,” said Greenwood official Tom Bonner, who said the company is “well advanced in negotiations with one of those two.”
Weinberg told the commission that development plans for the Leominster slots parlor include a police substation, and he said he doubts there would be a public safety draw from neighboring municipalities, though he said Cordish could pay communities if there are needs. The Cordish president told the News Service nearby police departments could send the company a bill.
All the applicants said they are making progress towards reaching agreements.
“It is very important that the surrounding communities have time to get their acts together, to get reasonable data that they can use to consider the issues, consider the impacts, and we will be sure that they get the time,” Crosby told reporters.