By Robyn Burleson and Abim Thomas
During the last week of February, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission discussed the three final applications vying for the sole Category 2 slots-parlor license available in the Commonwealth and awarded the sole slot-parlor license to the Penn National Gaming proposal in Plainville.
As part of the review process, each commissioner explored one aspect of the five key criteria for the evaluation of the gaming proposals:
- General overview of the application
- Economic development
- Building and site design
The commissioners worked with industry experts and advisers to assess the slot-parlor applications through the lens of each Commissioner’s assigned criteria, with the help of applicant presentations, public hearings, host community meetings and detailed examinations of the proposals.
During the Commission’s open public meetings on February 25, 26 and 27, the commissioners presented the findings of their investigations. Commissioner James McHugh initiated the discussion with a presentation on the Building and Site Design criteria, focusing on the physical aspects of the proposed parlor and its surroundings.
Commissioner McHugh and his team focused on seven specific elements: creativity in design, the quality of amenities to be included in each parlor, compatibility with its surroundings, sustainability, security, each proposal’s approach to permitting and other uses for the facility and its location in the community.
McHugh gave a thorough presentation, discussing the elements of each applicant’s building and site design in detail. He concluded that Leominster and Plainville have satisfactory design concepts, while Raynham failed to include adequate detail in its proposal.
Commissioner Enrique Zuniga then presented a financial projection analysis of each proposal. After assessing each applicant’s financial estimates, the current financial strength of each applicant and the ability of each applicant to obtain investment capital, Zuniga and his team of evaluators gave the Leominster and Plainville applicants high ratings, while Raynham’s proposal was ranked sufficient.
The mitigation aspect of the criteria was addressed by Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who described the ways that the applications demonstrated community support, planned to address any impacts to surrounding communities (particularly traffic issues), and enhanced the Lottery. Overall, Commissioner Cameron gave Leominster and Raynham satisfactory ratings, while Plainville’s application showed the most positive and committed mitigation efforts, meeting and exceeding the American Gaming Association reasonable code of conduct.
Next up, the Economic Development presentation by Commissioner Bruce Stebbins covered job creation, tourism and local business support potential. Stebbins and his evaluation team considered each applicant’s past experience and future plans for entertainment, marketing initiatives, collaboration with tourism agencies, and a demonstrated awareness of the local tourism market. Stebbins gave Leominster and Plainville high ratings, while Raynham’s proposal was simply sufficient.
Chairman Steve Crosby rounded out the discussion with his presentation on the final evaluation category—the general overview of the applications. He discussed the strategic locations of the proposed parlors, noting that the Leominster proposal is in a location that offers a particularly competitive advantage, as it is in a relatively underserved part of the state, as it is the furthest away from the casinos in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Crosby also noted that the Raynham and Plainville proposals demonstrate significant support to the already existing horse racing industry, which he believes is important to maintain. Crosby and his team gave Leominster’s proposal the highest rating, with the Plainville and Raynham proposals marked as less satisfactory options.
Once the presentations concluded, the Commission began its deliberation, addressing follow-up questions and discussing differences in opinion. The Raynham proposal was kicked out of the running relatively quickly, as the commissioners moved to discuss the benefits and drawbacks to the Leominster and Plainville proposals. Chairman Crosby noted that the three critical values that the Commission must consider are revenue, job creation opportunities, and economic development.
On February 27, the Commission took a final vote, awarding the slot parlor license to the Penn National Gaming proposal in Plainville with a vote of 3-2.