Gaming Commission won't alter application process for Brockton casino developer
SPRINGFIELD - The Massachusetts Gaming Commission received hundreds of emails and letters regarding a Brockton casino developer’s request for the board to disregard the possibility of a tribal casino opening up in nearby Taunton.
On Sept. 10, developer Neil Bluhm, chairman of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, had gone before the board to request that the commission definitively say whether or not they will issue a gaming license to a community in the southeastern part of the state, known as Region C, regardless of what happens in Taunton.
The commission agreed to consider Bluhm’s request and opened a two-week public comment period asking for feedback. On Thursday at their meeting in Springfield, the commission unanimously rejected the request stating they wanted to continue with the application process as scheduled.
On Friday, Sept. 18, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs announced they would allow the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to take 151 acres in Taunton and 170 acres in Mashpee into trust as Indian reservation land.
The decision clears a major hurdle for the tribe in their plans to build a $500 million resort tribal casino in Taunton.
“Land into trust is not a new surprise. It’s not like all of a sudden, ‘Wow it’s here,’” said commission chairman Stephen Crosby. “We’re unanimous in that we do not choose to change our approach.”
Commissioners cited the news that the Wampanoag’s land had been put into trust – which happened while Bluhm’s request was being considered – and plans in other states like Rhode Island and Connecticut to build casinos close to the Massachusetts border as reasons why they wanted to do their due diligence.
“I don’t want to alter our course. There’s new information that we need to review,” said commissioner Bruce Stebbins.
Some have speculated that the potential of a casino being built in Taunton would be a death knell to Brockton’s bid, but the commissioners said, as of Thursday, that was not the case.
“I have no preconceived notion as to one or two (casinos) or whatever may fall. The question is of the applicant. The sole remaining applicant of the (Region C) casino license,” said commissioner James McHugh. “If they make a compelling argument, we’ll listen to it. And it’s exactly what we did for everyone else. We will take everything into account.”
Late Thursday, Mass Gaming and Entertainment issued a statement about the board’s actions:
“We thank the Gaming Commission for its consideration of our request and are gratified that the Commission confirmed that it will continue with the Region C process. We intend to make a strong case for why our proposed casino resort in Brockton is in the best interests of the commonwealth.”
The commission received hundreds of emails and letters for and against Brockton’s casino application and Bluhm’s request.
Several business owners and owners of construction companies in and around Brockton voiced their support for the project.
Peter Neville, president of Brockton-based Concord Foods, said in a letter to the commission, “As the largest manufacturer in Brockton, I know first-hand how a vibrant and fiscally healthy city directly benefits business. A resort casino in Brockton will bring important revenue into the city and help revitalize the region.”
Brian DeLano, co-owner of Weiss Sheet Metal in Avon wrote, “This not only benefits the city’s coffers, but also local businesses that will get a huge boost with an increase in tourism and economic development.”
A group opposing a casino in the city, the Brockton Interfaith Community, sent over 200 messages to the commission during the open comment period.
“The citizens who signed these letters and petitions oppose locating a casino in Brockton, and they specifically and adamantly oppose the request by Mass Gaming and Entertainment LLC that the MA Gaming Commission change its plan and policy,” wrote Tom McDonnell, community organizer for BIC.
In addition, stakeholders in the state’s casino industry also sent messages opposing Bluhm’s request including Penn National Gaming senior vice president Carl Sottosanti. Penn National currently operates Plainridge Park, the state’s only running gaming facility in Plainville.
“There is no reason for the Commission to act hastily in this matter. A decision not to issue a Region C license at this time would not preclude the Commission from re-opening the licensing process to new bidders should market conditions change,” Sottosanti wrote.
On Sept. 30, Mass Gaming and Entertainment’s final application is due to the commission for review.