Massachusetts Gaming Commission Urged to Reconsider Southeastern Casino Proposal

Posted on: June 9, 2018, 08:00h. 

Last updated on: June 9, 2018, 04:57h.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Chairman Stephen Crosby confirmed during a meeting on Thursday that the agency was in receipt of a letter from a casino operator requesting its denied proposal for a gaming venue in the southeastern part of the state be reconsidered.

Massachusetts casino Brockton Rush Street
Stephen Crosby, the chief gaming regulator in Massachusetts, says new efforts are underway to place a casino in the state’s southeastern region. (Image: John Tlumacki/Boston Globe/Rush Street/

Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming proposed a $677 million casino resort at the Brockton Fairgrounds in 2015. In April of 2016, the MGC voted 4-1 against the project due to saturation concerns that might arise should the state’s Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe win its legal battle to construct a $1 billion casino in nearby Taunton.

Now more than two years later, and the tribe repeatedly denied authorization to build its casino on newly acquired land, and Rush Street wants the MGC to revisit its plan. The company’s proposal was made under an entity named Mass Gaming & Entertainment (MG&E).

“Despite the setback of the commission’s April 2016 vote, Rush Street and MG&E remain interested in pursuing a casino and hotel development in Brockton,” Rush Street said in its letter.

“We respectfully request that you agree to hold a public hearing regarding the short and long-term best interest of Southeastern Massachusetts, and also agree to reconsider MG&E’s application without re-opening the application hearing process more broadly,” the company finished.

Rush Street operates Rivers casinos in Schenectady, New York, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Des Plaines, Illinois, as well as SugarHouse in Philadelphia.

Region C Wait and See

Under the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, the state gaming commission could authorize as many as three commercial integrated casino resorts, with one in each region of the state. The law also authorized a slots-only facility, which is the Plainridge Park Casino.

The $2.5 billion Encore Boston Harbor is slated for a June 2019 opening in the Region A area. MGM Springfield, a $960 million resort, is to open this August in the western part of the state in Region B.

Region C, which consists of the counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable, remains unlicensed.

Rush Street’s MS&G was the only bid in 2015 for Region C. The Expanded Gaming Act requires that the full-fledged casinos come with a minimum investment of $500 million, pay the state 25 percent of their gross gaming revenue, reach local host partnerships, and pay a one-time upfront licensing fee of $85 million.

In the MGC’s rejection, Crosby explained, “We evaluated and deliberated as thoroughly and comprehensively as we possibly could. These decisions are difficult and we acknowledge can be very disappointing for the invested participants.”

Rush Concerns

The MGC didn’t say whether the agency would move forward with re-reviewing the Brockton casino concept. With the odds long that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino will be built anytime soon, the chances of a resort in Region C being authorized presumably increase.

But Rush comes with a bit of baggage, and for a state gaming commission that has drawn some criticism for licensing Wynn Resorts in light of the sex scandal surrounding its founder and former CEO, MGC might consider reopening the bidding process.

In 2016, Rush agreed to pay a $1.65 million fine in Illinois for “inconsistent” jackpots on its slot machines. To its credit, Rivers was the one to first report the inconsistency to state regulators.