Casino timetable accelerated

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided this week to split up the application process and should be ready to receive applications from casino operators sooner than expected.
“We’re looking at late summer or early fall,” said Commission member Bruce Stebbins.
Applicants would be reviewed before going out for a Request For Qualifications (RFQ), said Stebbins. This way, communities would know sooner if an operator interested in their city or town is being considered.
Whether or not this would allow some communities to have a referendum question on a 2013 ballot remains to be seen.
“It will be interesting to see how it translates into referendum votes,” Stebbins said.
Up to three casinos will be allowed in Massachusetts, with one being in western Massachusetts. Locally, operators have publicly expressed interest in Springfield, Palmer, Westfield and Holyoke.
Stebbins said once the Commission calls for applicants, there could be more interest than the public knows.
“This process may help us with identifying somebody that hasn’t necessarily been public about their interest,” he said.
“I am in favor of the commission’s proposal,” said Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapik. “This process promises to be very complex and certainly host communities will need assistance from the commission to ensure that the community is assured of an appropriate agreement.”
Earlier this month, Knapik announced that Penn National Gaming, a national Hollywood-themed regional casino operator, expressed interest in a parcel of land near the Mass Turnpike owned by Equity Industrial Partners, a company out of Needham.
Knapik said a casino could greatly reduce property taxes to the rest of the city and attract retailers, hotels, a movie theater and more.
Knapik said if a deal is signed, he expects a big push from the operator to encourage residents to vote favorably.
“If a deal is signed there will be an enormous effort by the operator, and by opponents,” Knapik said.
Penn National Gaming owns, operates or has ownership interests in gaming and racing facilities with a focus on slot machine entertainment. The Company presently operates 26 facilities in 19 jurisdictions, including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Ontario. In aggregate, Penn National’s operated facilities feature approximately 29,700 gaming machines, approximately 665 table games, 2,400 hotel rooms and 1.2 million square feet of gaming floor space. With over 16,500 employees, and revenues exceeding $2.5 billion, Penn National Gaming is the third largest US gaming company.
Penn National Gaming started in 1971 as a single horse-racing venue and expanded into one of the nation’s largest gaming companies, offering everything from slot machines to table games, poker, thoroughbred racing, restaurants, live entertainment and even NASCAR.
City Advancement Officer Jeffrey Daley said this week that a change in application deadline has no effect on Westfield because there is no signed contract at this time.

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