26 Apr

Brockton vs Taunton, can both win Mass Casino Battle?

It was almost a year ago when Massachusetts got a taste of its very first casino, following the installment of a slots parlor at Plainridge Park in June 2015. With it came promises of grand casino resort developments by Las Vegas gambling corporations MGM and Wynn Resorts. Then there was the matter of one more casino license to be delivered, but with a pair of newly proposed gambling facilities on the horizon – one tribal owned and another just inside the border of Rhode Island – the Mass casino market may be oversaturated before it even takes off.

When the state agreed to authorize casino gaming in 2011, regulators agreed that only three licenses should be made available. They would be spread throughout different counties across the region to avoid saturation of the market.

The first two licenses were quickly awarded. One went to Wynn Resorts, who is currently developing a massive Las Vegas-style resort in Everett, on the north-eastern coast at Boston Harbor, with a price tag of near $2 billion. The second was bestowed upon MGM Resorts Intl to construct a $950 million Mass casino in south-central Springfield.

Only one company has since applied for the third license; Rush Street Gaming, which operates two casinos in Pennsylvania, another in Illinois, and is developing a fourth in Schenectady, New York. Owner Neil Bluhm proposed a $677 million casino for the south-eastern city of Brockton, MA, and was fully expected receive that license, until…

Artist Impression of Brockton, Mass Casino by Rush Street Gaming

Artist Impression of Brockton, Mass Casino by Rush Street Gaming

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe received official recognition from the federal government, immediately finalizing plans to open its own $1 billion casino in Taunton, just 15 miles south of Brockton. The tribe broke ground on the First Light Casino project just last month, and is projecting a phase-1 opening sometime in 2017.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Plainridge Park’s slots parlor is less than 20 miles from the tribe’s First Light Casino, and less than 30 miles from Brockton. Not even 50 miles away is the already established Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and the owner of that facility is seeking permission to build another gambling destination closer to the Massachusetts border.

Saturation Before Initiation?

What was once a perfect breeding ground for a Mass casino market has suddenly found itself breeding like rabbits, so to speak, and some officials are clearly concerned that the southern region, at least, will not be able to support so much competition.

One way or another, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission must decided whether Bluhm’s Brockton casino project is worthy of a license, and they only have until the end of this week to make that decision. Deliberation is scheduled to begin this morning, April 26, and will continue until Thursday, at least; possibly leading into Friday, “if necessary“.

Last week, 7 state legislators joined in scripting a letter to the commission requesting that they postpone the vote, fearing that so many gambling destinations in the southern region could reduce the amount of taxes collected by the state due to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s tax-exempt project in Taunton, and a possible second in nearby Rhode Island.

In the meantime, a group of Taunton residents, funded by Rush Street Gaming, have filed litigation in federal courts opposing the previous ruling that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe should be federally recognized.