Massachusetts Gaming Commission Revives Region C Casino Consideration Following Encore Boston Harbor Opening

Posted on: June 28, 2019, 08:22h. 

Last updated on: June 28, 2019, 08:22h.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is once again considering the Region C license, the third and final destination casino property the state legalized in its 2011 Expanded Gaming Act.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission casino license
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is focusing on the outstanding Region C casino license. (Image: Andy Metzger/Commonwealth Magazine)

With the recent opening of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor, the MGC is reverting back to deliberating whether a third integrated casino resort should be authorized. Massachusetts is now home to the Wynn Resorts property, MGM Resorts’ $960 million complex in Springfield, and the slots-only Plainridge Park facility owned by Penn National.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said she appreciated the patience among those parties interested in bringing a casino to the C region – which includes the counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable.

Given that neither Commissioner O’Brien nor I have been involved in any past discussions and decisions relating to this region, I think it makes sense as a first immediate step for the legal team to bring us and the rest of the Commission up to speed by providing us with a legal analysis regarding the status of the motion for reconsideration,” Judd-Stein said during Thursday’s meeting.

Judd-Stein was appointed by Governor Charlie Baker (R) in January to oversee the MGC following Stephen Crosby’s resignation last fall.

Region C

The Encore Boston Harbor debut brings the Expanded Gaming Act to fulfillment – minus Region C. State regulators decided to refrain from approving a qualified bid due to an ongoing tribal legal matter in Taunton, which is in Bristol County.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been trying to build a $1 billion casino resort for several years, but is engulfed in a legal battle with federal officials as to whether it has the right to do so. The Department of the Interior ruled last fall that it had erred in taking 321 acres of land into federal trust and giving the Native American group sovereign status for the property.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) – now a 2020 presidential candidate – has been leading the federal push to give the tribe formal authorization for the casino. She introduced legislation that would override the DOI requirement.

President Donald Trump, who refers to Warren as “Pocahontas,” urged Republicans not to vote for the bill. However, HR 312 passed the House of Representatives in May, and currently sits in the Senate.

Saturation Concerns

The MGC has delayed approving a commercial casino for Region C due to the potential tribal facility. Should the Mashpee people win their fight, having two destination gaming properties in the southeast part of the state would presumably be one too many.

If the tribe doesn’t gain approval, the leading contender for the region is Rush Street Gaming. The Chicago-based casino group has proposed a $677 million resort at the Brockton Fairgrounds. The company says it remains interested.

State Senator Michael Brady (D-Brockton) expressed his support to the MGC this week to bring a casino to his town.

“In the south region, I still hear from people that are going to other states (to gamble),” Brady said. “They have these so-called golf and gamble trips where they rent a bus. They go down and play golf and then they have a nice lunch afterwards and they visit the casinos in the other states, and we’re losing the Massachusetts residents continuously to these other states.”