The new gaming law passed by Massachusetts legislators last fall allows for the creation of three casinos – one each in specific geographic areas of the Commonwealth.
One casino for the greater Boston area – which includes Worcester County. One casino for the southeastern part of the state – down through the Fall River-New Bedford region and out onto the Cape. And finally –one casino somewhere in westernMassachusetts– Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties.
Right now – it looks like our region will be the site of the most spirited battle to win one of those coveted casino licenses. Here’s why.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino has put his considerable political clout behind getting a casino for his city.Boston’s Suffolk Downs race track seems like the sure site. State House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who championed the bill to passage, would also be very happy to have the Casino at Suffolk Downs in his backyard providing jobs for his constituents. Beyond that – it’s a pretty easy argument making the case for a Suffolk Downs site. It’s in a major population center at an already-established gambling venue – so the customers are there and opponents really can’t argue that you are setting up something that will have a negative impact on the community.
In the southeastern region – the law gives the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe exclusive rights for several months to put together a casino plan – so that may end up precluding all other comers for the license in that part of the state –at least for awhile.
That leaves us with Western Massachusetts. As I write this – there are proposals for casinos in Palmer, Holyoke, Brimfield – each one tied to a giant in the gambling industry. Mohegan Sun in Palmer. Hard Rock International for Holyoke. Ameristar in Springfield and MGM Resorts International in Brimfield. These are all very serious contenders with amazing amounts of money and there may be more groups still out there waiting to come forward with a proposal. The law sets a minimum bid of $85 Million dollars for a casino license — but these high-rollers could put a lot more than that on the table to beat out their competitors. They’ll also spend big to convince local residents they should vote in favor of “hosting” a casino in their town – another requirement of the law. Have no doubt that the next couple of years are going to be a wild time here in westernMassachusetts– and we’ve all got front row seats for the show!