Plainridge Park Casino Seeks Table Games, More Slots to Compete with Rhode Island

Posted on: September 15, 2021, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2021, 12:07h.

Business at Plainridge Park Casino struggled greatly in 2020. But state lawmakers have a plan to help the venue return to better days.

Plainridge Park Casino Massachusetts gaming
A gambler tests his luck on a slot machine at Plainridge Park Casino. State reps are campaigning in the Massachusetts capital to expand gaming operations at the Plainville slots facility. (Image: Getty)

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies devoted much of its meeting yesterday to reviewing whether to allow Plainridge Park to bring table games to its casino.

Because of ongoing competition in neighboring states — specifically Rhode Island — as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a dismal year for Plainridge. The casino reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $82.2 million, a 46 percent decline — or nearly $70 million — from 2019.

State Reps. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin) and Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), whose legislative districts embrace Plainville, where Plainridge Park is located, believe Massachusetts should allow the live harness racing venue to pivot into a full-fledged casino with table games.

The state politicians appeared before the Joint Committee to provide a reason for their introduction of House Bills 507 and 532. Both bills would amend Plainridge Park’s regulatory conditions to allow the casino to expand its operations.

The proposals call for affording Plainridge to house up to 30 table games, plus an additional 250 slot machines. Under Plainridge’s current Category 2 gaming license, the property is permitted to house up to 1,250 slot terminals.

Ongoing Competition

Massachusetts’ 2011 Expanded Gaming Act authorized up to three destination resort casinos, plus a single slots-only facility. Penn National Gaming secured the slots-only license and opened Plainridge Park Casino in June of 2015.

Less than a year after Massachusetts passed its commercial gaming bill, lawmakers and voters in Rhode Island decided to allow Twin River Casino in Lincoln to operate table games. Rhode Island’s Twin River and Massachusetts’ Plainridge Park are separated by just 12 miles.

While Plainridge is limited to 1,250 slot machines, Twin River features 4,100 slot terminals, 80 table games, a sportsbook, and a 136-room hotel. Twin River, which is owned and operated by the newly formed Bally’s Corporation — previously Twin River Worldwide Holdings — is planning a major expansion of its casino resort. The development will add 40,000 additional square feet to the complex, which will be used as additional gaming space and a spa.

Rhode Island is planning a major expansion at Twin River, and that will put Plainridge and my communities at a further competitive disadvantage,” Roy told the Joint Committee.

“We’re here to push for a modest expansion of Plainridge so that the commonwealth can best compete with our neighbors to the south, protect jobs, local businesses, and the tax revenues that have been generated from Plainridge Park,” Roy explained further.

Plainridge Park shares 49 percent of its GGR with the state. Of that money, 82 percent remains local for community programs, and the remaining 18 percent goes towards the Massachusetts Race Horse Development Fund.

More Gaming, More Jobs

Jeff Morris, vice president of public affairs and government relations for Penn National, also appeared before the committee. He said that while the company understands it holds only a slots license in Massachusetts, the casino company agreed to such an operating permit prior to the expansion of gaming in Rhode Island.

Morris opined that more slots, plus table games, will allow Plainridge Park to reverse its sliding gaming income. The proposed additional gaming, Morris said, would result in 175 new jobs at Plainridge.

The Joint Committee is reviewing both HB 507/532 but has not yet voted on the measures.