4 groups interested in final Massachusetts casino license reserved for southeastern region

Industries Associated Press

A prominent executive who ran casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and a Brookline woman who wants to build one to benefit Native Americans are among the names eying a Jan. 30 deadline to apply for Massachusetts' final resort casino license.

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In the coming days, state Gaming Commission is expected to meet with groups interested in applying for the resort casino license, which is reserved for the southeastern region around Fall River, New Bedford and the Rhode Island border.

Among them are Mass Gaming & Entertainment, Seafan Trust Corp. and Somerset on the Move, according to commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll.

The possible applicants would join KG Urban Enterprises, a New York-based real estate development firm that wants to build a casino on a former power plant on New Bedford's waterfront.

Applicants must pay a $400,000 fee and file initial information by Jan. 30 in order to continue in the multistep licensing process, which regulators have delayed a number of times in order to generate greater interest.

Any casino ultimately licensed by the state in the southeast region may also have to compete with an Indian tribe-run casino: the Mashpee Wampanoags are seeking a federal reservation in Taunton where they'd build a resort that does not require a state license.

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Kathryn Wheaton, who runs the Brookline-based Seafan Trust Corp., says she wants to develop a casino called the Sun Moon Resort at a 500-acre location in the southeast that she's declined to name.

Wheaton, who says she's Native American, said the project would focus on offering resort-level amenities and benefit Native Americans, but declined to elaborate more on the plans.

Somerset on the Move LLC is being headed up by David Hanlon, a former president of Harrah's Atlantic City operations and the Rio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, according to Somerset Board of Selectmen Chairman Donald Setters.

Hanlon, who is also a former president and CEO of International Game Technology, a major manufacturer of slot machines, did not respond to requests for comment.

Somerset town leaders hope a casino can help offset the anticipated loss of revenue from the closing of local power plants. They have identified 100 acres of town-owned land just off Interstate 195 as a possible casino site.

Mass Gaming & Entertainment, an affiliate of the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, had initially sought a slot parlor license but ultimately dropped those plans. It's not clear where in the southeast region the company would build a resort casino. A spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

Foxwoods, a Connecticut tribe-run casino, had also expressed interest in applying for the southeastern license, but has not reached out to gambling regulators recently. The company did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Mohegan Sun, which had unsuccessfully bid for the Boston-area casino license, also will not likely to pursue the license.

"At this point we would be cautious about extending ourselves further in Massachusetts," said spokesman Cosmo Macero.

In 2011, state lawmakers authorized the gaming commission to license up to three regional resort casinos and one slot parlor.

To date, the commission has licensed resort casinos in the eastern and western regions of the state, as well as a slot parlor in the southeast.

Wynn Resorts is building a $1.6 billion waterfront casino in Everett, MGM Resorts International is developing an $800 million casino in Springfield, and Penn National Gaming is spending $225 million to turn the Plainridge harness racing track in Plainville into a slot parlor.