Goodwin Gaming
October 8, 2013

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Continues Busy Fall Schedule As Application Deadlines Loom

By Abim Thomas and Robyn Burleson

Region C Contenders Have Lingering Process Questions

The Commission held its 77th open public meeting on September 19. Highlights from the meeting included a discussion regarding Region C.  Karen Wells, the Commission’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement, presented the Commission with a question that she’s received from potential Region C applicants seeking guidance on potential scenarios regarding the September 30 application deadline:

If a Region C non-gaming operator is interested in partnering with someone in the gaming industry, but at this point has not determined who that partner will be, could the would-be licensee still file a Phase 1 application now (and pay the $400,000 fee as sort of a placeholder), then partner later with a gaming operator who has not filed an application by September 30?

The Commission determined that this would be acceptable, as long as the applicant makes the December deadline. Director Wells noted that if the non-gaming operator partners with someone who has not yet been through the suitability process, however, they might not make the deadline, as there likely would not be sufficient time to include a new party. Therefore, the investigatory process would be easier if a non-gaming operator who files a placeholder application decides to partner with someone who has already been through the suitability process, perhaps an unsuccessful bidder in another region who has already passed suitability.

Surrounding Communities Granted More Time for Negotiations

During the Commission’s September 19 meeting, Ombudsman John Ziemba led a discussion about potential surrounding communities and their concerns regarding upcoming application deadlines. Ombudsman Ziemba expressed concern that surrounding communities may need more time to achieve a greater understanding of the impacts that potential gaming facilities may have.

The conversation continued into the Commission’s October 3 meeting, where Ombudsman Ziemba once again stressed the importance of the mitigation efforts to surrounding communities, deeming it an “essential part of the application process,” as communities and applicants must work together in order to address impacts or lack of impacts.

Commissioner McHugh agreed, noting that the gaming application specifically asks questions about how the mitigation efforts will proceed once licenses have been granted. Commissioner McHugh stressed that the Commission will pay serious attention to these responses.

All slot applicants will also get a chance to brief the Commission about the status of their plans for their surrounding communities at its next public meeting. The Commission hopes that applicants will share how they plan to address community needs, as well as the resources that they plan to devote to assisting the surrounding communities with potential impacts. After this discussion, the Commission will host input sessions in potential surrounding communities, where it hopes to receive comments from the public regarding their discussions with applicants. In the meantime, the Commission will continue to work with applicants and surrounding communities.

Deadline Extension Discussed

Ombudsman Ziemba indicated that surrounding community negotiations are the biggest delay in the application process. He suggested that the goals of the surrounding community negotiations may be better achieved by extending the deadline for filing surrounding community designation applications. The deadline was previously set at October 15, 2013.

A deadline extension would also enhance the public interest, Ombudsman Ziemba argued, by giving potential surrounding communities more time to engage in conversations with applicants instead of prematurely forcing them into an adversarial hearing process. The Commission agreed that more time for these negotiations would be beneficial, with Chairman Crosby noting that “sometimes even a turtle on Ambien is going too fast.” Therefore, the Commission unanimously voted to move the deadline for filing surrounding community designation applications to October 31, 2013, with the hope that this will give communities enough time to reach agreements with applicants without having to resort to an adversarial hearing.