Plainridge Park Casino, a slots and electronic tables facility, saw its gross gaming revenue jump 6.3 percent in 2017.

Plainridge Park Casino Massachusetts

Plainridge Park Casino patrons kept the slot machines busy in 2017. (Image: Don Treeger/The Republican)

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) reported this week that the 1,250-machine slot parlor generated total revenue of $164.8 million over the last 12 months. That’s a $9.8 million premium on 2016.

December’s take totaled $12.7 million, a small 0.7 percent increase on the same month in 2016.

The colder months have traditionally been slow for the casino since it opened in June 2015. The $12.7 million win in December was the third-worst monthly performance in 2017, behind only January ($12.2 million) and February ($12 million).

Slots Pay Off

Plainridge Park revenue is taxed at 49 percent, with 82 percent of the government’s take earmarked for local aid, and the remaining 18 percent allocated for the state’s Race Horse Development Fund.

The Plainridge Racecourse is the only remaining horse racetrack in the state. Suffolk Downs, a historic track that hosted such notable horses as Seabiscuit and Funny Cide, was closed and sold last May.

To date, the race horse fund has received $36.7 million in casino taxes. Sixteen percent, or nearly $5.9 million, has been directed to the track. Four percent ($1.5 million) has been used to fund health and pension benefits for horsemen.

The remaining funds are stored in an interest-bearing account. The money is predominantly used for prize purses in order to attract racehorse owners and keep racing live.

In addition to benefitting the local Plainridge area and its horse racetrack, the slots casino might also be helping to grow lottery sales. Under the state’s Expanded Gaming Act passed in 2011, all commercial casinos must also serve as licensed Massachusetts Lottery agents.

In 2016, the casino’s first full year in operation, the state lottery sold $5.23 billion worth of lottery tickets. That was a 4.4 percent increase on 2015, and its largest annual gain since 2012. The lottery won $989.4 million in net profit for the state.

Plainridge General Manager Lance George opined that the lottery surge validated the notion that the introduction of casino gaming would not negatively impact the Massachusetts Lottery.

Mass Casino Expansion

This time next year, Plainridge will no longer be the sole casino in Massachusetts, assuming construction of the $960 million MGM Springfield stays on schedule. The integrated casino resort is set to open in September, and will be the first property in the state to receive a Category 1 gambling license.

Gross gaming revenue at MGM Springfield will be taxed at 25 percent. The second resort casino, the $2.4 billion Wynn Boston Harbor, is slated to open in 2019.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission can authorize a third and final Category 1 license in the southeastern counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes or Barnstable.

The Commission has delayed doing so as the state’s Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe continued its legal quest to build a $1 billion tribal casino resort in Taunton. However, it now appears that the Department of the Interior is not going to take the Native American group’s 150-acre plot of land, which it acquired in 2015, into federal trust. That’s essentially a death blow to the tribe’s casino aspirations, and might resume the commercial bidding process for the final casino resort license.