BOSTON – The march toward Las Vegas-style gambling in the Bay State begins in earnest now that voters have resoundingly defeated a ballot question to repeal the state's 2011 casino law. Anti-casino advocates have left the door open for another repeal effort someday, but the following is a closer look at what's on the horizon for Massachusetts' nascent casino industry:
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PLAINRIDGE PARK: Penn National Gaming hopes to open its proposed $225 million slot parlor at the Plainville harness racing track by June 2015, which would make it the first gambling facility to open under the 2011 casino law. The Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based gambling company broke ground on the project in March. When completed, the facility is expected to have about 1,250 slot machines as well as restaurant, bar and entertainment offerings. It will not offer casino table games like blackjack and roulette. The project is expected to create 1,000 temporary construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs, on top of the more than 100 employed at the track.
MGM SPRINGFIELD: The $800 million project is expected to break ground in spring 2015 and take roughly two-and-a-half years to build, putting MGM on track for a 2017 opening. The casino hopes to secure permits for initial excavation and foundation work and close on a certain land purchases by year's end. The Las Vegas gambling giant's plan calls for a casino floor offering 3,000 slot machines and 75 gambling tables, a 250-room hotel and shopping, dining, meeting and entertainment space on 14.5 acres. MGM has promised to preserve historic buildings and storefronts downtown while adding new amenities like a public plaza, cinema and bowling alley. MGM's project is expected to employ over 2,000 temporary construction workers and no less than 3,000 permanent workers when the casino opens.
WYNN EVERETT: The company hopes to get started on environmental cleanup at the roughly 30-acre former Monsanto chemical plant site in early 2015, assuming it secures state approvals. Wynn says cleanup of soil containing arsenic, lead, copper and other heavy metals should cost about $30 million. Construction of the $1.6 billion waterfront project will likely take over two years, meaning the resort could open in late 2017. Wynn also needs to redesign its proposed hotel. The casino's current plan calls for a 27-story glass hotel tower with 500 luxury rooms, a gambling floor with 160 table games and 3,200 slot machines and space for a nightclub, restaurants, retail stores and meeting and convention space. Wynn also wants to build boat docks, provide a water taxi service into Boston and create a public harbor walk with an amphitheater and other amenities. Wynn says the project will create 4,000 temporary construction jobs and 4,000 permanent casino jobs.
LAST LICENSE: The third and final resort casino license remains a major question mark. Foxwoods floated a casino for Fall River while other operators have suggested casinos in New Bedford and Bridgewater. None have taken the critical step of reaching an agreement with their host community, let alone put a proposal before voters in a local referendum. Gambling regulators, as a result, reopened bidding, setting the new deadline for Dec. 1. The commission hopes to award the license by August 2015.
INDIAN TRIBES: Two federally-recognized American Indian tribes are developing plans to open gambling halls in southern Massachusetts. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is proposing a $500 million resort casino on 150 acres in Taunton. The tribe has reached an accord with the state on its plan, but still, critically, needs federal approval to take the land in trust. Meanwhile, the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe on Martha's Vineyard is trying to build a gambling hall filled with electronic betting machines on a remote part of the resort island. The state, however, argues in a federal lawsuit that the tribe long-ago forfeited its rights to open a casino.