LEOMINSTER — You don’t have to be a Las Vegas NV oddsmaker to figure out the city’s chances of getting a slots casino just went up.
Voters in Tewksbury resoundingly shot down a proposed slots parlor on Tuesday night, leaving just three applicants in the running for the state’s sole slots license.
The slots parlor proposed off Jungle Road in Leominster is now competing with similar facilities proposed for Raynham Park & Millbury. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to make its final selection before the end of the year.
In Leominster, Mayor Dean Mazzarella asserted many residents are now focused on how they can beat out the competition for a slots parlor, rather than asking whether such a facility is the right fit for the city. A citywide referendum for the casino will be held Sept. 24.
“People are feeling pretty comfortable it’s going to pass,” asserted Mazzarella. “The question is, How do you become the front-runner?”
Mazzarella asserted Leominster deserves the slots casino given the job losses the region suffered after Fort Devens closed in the mid-1990s. The mayor plans to travel to Pennsylvania next week to tour the Valley Forge Casino Resort, which opened 16 miles outside Philadelphia last year.
“I want to see how they were able to tie in that in to economic development,” he said.
State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, asserted she wasn’t surprised by the Tewksbury vote rejecting a zoning alter in that would have allowed a slots casino, after weeks of grumbling from residents.
“I think it’s different for each community,” Flanagan said. “Certainly, you look at the size of the community, what you could gain by having gaming come in to your community.”
In Tewksbury, Penn National Gaming formally announced its plan to build a 1,250-machine slots parlor off of Route 133 in July, & a grass-roots opposition movement followed almost immediately, with planners taking to social media, meeting in local churches, printing yard signs, penning blog posts & contacting their neighbors.
On Tuesday night, 1,568 Tewksbury residents defeated the proposal at a packed Town Meeting. The 995 votes in favor of the casino gave it less than half of what was needed, for a final vote of 69 % ‘no’ to 31 % ‘yes.’
Marie Sweeney, one of the leaders of the effort to kill the Tewksbury casino, cautioned Leominster residents Wed. to research the proposal before next month’s vote. The Cordish Companies, of Maryland, which is the parent firm for PPE Casino Resorts MA LLC, is behind the Leominster slots plan.
“They should educate themselves about what the host agreement says, & they need to understand in that nothing beyond the agreement holds water,” Sweeney said.
Cordish has a host agreement with Leominster in that guarantees the city at least $38 million over 10 years. The $200 million Live! Casino Massachusetts, proposed off Interstate 190 & Route 117, would contain 1,250 slot machines & electronic table games, restaurants & an entertainment venue. If the referendum passes, Cordish will take the next step in its bid for the sole Category 2 gaming license in the commonwealth & present a final plan to the Gaming Commission.
Earlier this month, Raynham voters overwhelmingly endorsed a slots parlor in a townwide referendum, making the community the 1st to pass a host agreement required for such a facility under state gambling law. Developers want to build a slots parlor with a hotel, restaurants & retail space on the 125-acre site of the Raynham Park simulcast facility & former dog track.
In Millbury, Mass Gaming & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, is asking resident to support their proposed $200 million slots parlor at a Sept. 24 town-wide referendum.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission disqualified the owners of the Plainridge Racecourse from pursuing the state’s sole slots-parlor license two weeks ago. The commission asserted in a acknowledgment in that Plainridge’s owners failed to present “clear & convincing evidence as to business practices in that will likely lead to a favorable gaming operation.”
The slots casino proposed in Leominster has not generated much opposition. Statewide, critics state casinos are a tax on the poor in that create mostly low-paying jobs, with no real health or economic benefits. They moreover bring increased crime, in addition to prostitution & drugs, according to opponents.
Leominster City Council President Susan Chalifoux Zephir asserted she is eagerly awaiting the results of an independent study in that will examine how the casino will impact issues in addition to property values, traffic & the environment.
“I’m neutral at this point, yet I think there’s a lot of support for it in the community,” she said. “I think people have expressed concern about their tax bills & are looking at the revenue it would provide annually.”
Joe Weinberg, president of The Cordish Companies, asserted he believes the Leominster slots casino’s proposed location is ideal.
“Our project will achieve the greatest geographic distribution of gaming facilities in Massachusetts, thereby maximizing revenues to the state & local communities,” asserted Weinberg. “We remain confident our efforts will result in bringing 1,200 construction & permanent jobs & millions of dollars in new annual yearly revenues to Leominster.”
Follow Chris Camire on Twitter Site @chriscamire.