Goodwin Gaming
February 11, 2016

Weekly Review of the Massachusetts Gaming Landscape

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Submits White Paper to the Legislature

If you have some skin in the game, submit a white paper. That’s what the Massachusetts Gaming Commission did in an effort to provide clarity on Daily Fantasy Sports (“DFS”).  The Commission has neither regulatory nor legislative power over DFS, but has perhaps the most extensive experience with gambling in Massachusetts and recognized the need for statewide regulations of all online gaming technologies.  The white paper outlined the legality of DFS and recommended the Legislature establish a regulatory structure applicable to all online gambling that should be overseen by an agency—and the Gaming Commission raised its hand to offer to serve in that regulatory role.  Now it is a waiting game to see if the Legislature agrees with the Commission’s recommendations and which legislative committee will lead the effort.


Why Can’t We Be Friends? Gaming Commission Approves Agreement Between Wynn Resorts and the City of Boston

Now, we can all get along. Or at least Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, casino mogul Steve Wynn, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission can put tensions aside because the Commission approved the surrounding community agreement proposed by Wynn Resorts and Boston city officials. As a recap, after the Commission awarded the eastern Massachusetts casino license to Wynn, there was concern about the impact of the casino on Boston, specifically increased traffic through the Charlestown neighborhood. Boston city officials fought for “host community status” to receive more funding to assist with the effects of casino traffic. After a very public battle that included a lawsuit, Boston city officials and Wynn Resorts finally said, “why can’t we be friends?” and reached an agreement providing for $68 million in mitigation funds, $20 million over 15 years, and the possibility for public waterfront space in Charlestown. That agreement was approved this week and everyone is playing together nicely again. As Eugene O’Flaherty, corporation counsel for the city of Boston said, “From this point forward, Wynn’s success is the city of Boston’s success, and vice versa.”


Demolition Begins at MGM Springfield

MGM Springfield is coming in like a wrecking ball and bringing many jobs with it.  On January 12, the largest economic development project in the history of western Massachusetts began.  Demolition crews arrived at the plot of land in Springfield for MGM’s $950 million resort casino and began tearing down the former Alfred Zanetti School.  MGM Springfield’s construction is expected to bring 2,000 construction jobs.  And when the resort and casino open in 2018, it is expected to bring 3,000 permanent jobs to the area. Despite the decision to downsize from its original master plan, it appears the casino will still be a significant job creator in downtown Springfield.


Plainridge Park Casino’s December 2015 Gross Gaming Revenue Released

Plainridge Park Casino may not see the payoff from its wager. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission released Plainridge Park Casino’s gross revenue for December 2015 and the figure has declined yet again. The slots parlor brought in $11.3 million in December—$600,000 less than in November 2015 and nearly $7 million less than its peak in July 2015. This dip in cash flow affects more than the slot parlor’s pockets.  Plainridge is taxed on 49% of gross gaming revenue, and of that total 82% is paid to Local Aid and 18% is paid to the Race Horse Development Fund.

Plainridge’s general manager, Lance George, explained that the company expected slower business during the holiday season and that December is historically a slow month for regional gambling.  However, Mr. George’s reasoning does not address the declining trend in Plainridge’s revenue since July 2015.  Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Gaming Commission, stated the Commission does not know why the casino is underperforming.  One possible explanation is that gamblers gravitate towards casinos with table games rather than slot machines. And a larger casino with tables exists only eleven miles away at Twin River Casino in Rhode Island.


Massachusetts Gaming Commission Annual Report

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (“MGC”) released its fourth Annual Report. During the 2015 Fiscal Year, the MGC issued an operations certification to Plainridge Park Casino, promulgated twelve sets of regulations governing gaming operations and two sets of amendments to Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing operations, issued the first report of a multi-year research study into the social and economic impacts of the introduction of expanded gaming, hired individuals to oversee the licensing framework for gaming licensees, held thirty-two public meetings and eleven statutory meetings, and continued its Speakers Bureau program that allows commissioners and staff to attend speaking engagements across the Commonwealth.