Gov. Baker: Leave Brockton casino competition up to the experts
BROCKTON – Gov. Charlie Baker was only a few yards from the site of a proposed Brockton casino, but he refused to touch it.
Standing inside The Shaw’s Center on Thursday, Baker said it is “not my place” to pick sides in the battle over the state’s final casino license.
“I would never weigh in on a question like that. It’s not my place,” Baker said, outside a conference on human trafficking behind held at the center across from the Brockton Fairgrounds.
“The statement of intent here was to not have governors making decisions like that, to have a separate independent commission that would be making those decision based on the data that they have,” Baker told The Enterprise.
“They’ve been working it for over a year,” he said. “They live with it every single day and it rightly should be a decision that would be made by them.”
A $650 million resort casino pitched for the fairgrounds is vying with a similar-sized hotel and casino proposed for the waterfront in New Bedford. The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission has final say over the awarding of the license.
Baker disagrees with how the state is approaching casino gaming – he would have preferred one casino as a test case – but said his view is that “the gaming commission will do their best to make sure that whatever decision they make” for the region “is the one they think is the most appropriate one.”
Brockton voters narrowly approved the fairgrounds project last month. New Bedford has a referendum scheduled for June 23.
Earlier on Thursday, at the Greater New Bedford Chamber of Commerce, Baker said the gaming commission ought to “let the market decide” whether this region of the state ought to have a casino.
Recent comments by some commissioners have raised concerns that they might be applying their own judgment about whether the market can support another casino. The issue, Baker said, should be decided by the free market. Region 3 is entitled to one commercial casino under state law, and anything outside of that would be the commission exceeding its authority, said the governor.
"Let the market decide. Let the market decide,” Baker said. “Seriously. The whole point behind setting the thing up in the first place was so you would have an independent, apolitical, data-driven decision-making process that presumed three sites.”
The commission has already awarded casino licenses for projects in Everett and Springfield. It also gave a slot parlor license to Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, which is scheduled to open June 24.
Baker does not plan to attend that opening, but told The Enterprise he swung by Plainridge recently. The gaming facility is off Route I-495 and features 1,500 slot machines and electronic table games as part of an existing horse track and simulcast center.
“The only thing I will say is they have a lot of work to do between now and the 24th to throw the doors open,” Baker said, “although it looks pretty cool.”
The New Bedford Standard-Times contributed to this report.