September 6, 2012

State Gaming Panel Chief: We'll Limit Business Impact

RICK SAIA
RICK SAIA
Stephen Crosby, chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, assured business leaders in Worcester that the commission would work to minimize casinos' impact on businesses.

The head of the commission overseeing the state's transition into casino gambling said today that his panel will employ a rigorous process that will ensure "local control" and minimize the impact on businesses when it begins siting up to four gaming facilities across the state.

Stephen Crosby, chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, told Worcester-area business leaders this morning that the three "resort style" casinos that the law allows will not have all the elements that casinos in other states have, such as entertainment, retail and sports.

"We have specifically said that is not what we're looking for here," he said. "Our bidders need to coordinate with local businesses … they need to cross-market with other tourism venues, restaurant venues, and entertainment venues."

The casino gaming law, passed last year, also has a "tremendous local control element" that Crosby said has earned it compliments from casino overseers in other state governments.

Crosby, who served as secretary of administration and finance under former governors Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift, said "if things go like clockwork, which they will not," the first licenses would be granted in the fall of 2013. More likely, the state could award the license for the one slots facility called for in the law in 2014, followed by those for resort-style casinos – up to three of which are guaranteed by the law.

"If it takes a little longer, we will take the time to do this job right," said Crosby, the keynote speaker for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce's quarterly Breakfast Club session, held at Mechanics Hall.

The commission is in the first phase of a five-phase job and has received only three applications to date for licenses, although he expects more will follow. He cited that there is only one applicant for a license in the Eastern zone (which includes Worcester and Middlesex counties), from the owners of the Suffolk Downs race track in East Boston, and one from MGM Resorts International, which wants to site a casino in Springfield. And the owners of the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville have applied for the slots license.

Crosby cited the economic impact and creation of jobs that the state is aiming for, specifically 8,000 to 10,000 constructions jobs to build the facilities, another 8,000 to 10,000 permanent jobs, and an annual revenue take for the commonwealth of $300 million to $500 million.

The primary goal for casino gambling in Massachusetts, and one emphasized by Gov. Deval Patrick, according to Crosby, is "economic development and job creation."

In addition, Crosby said the commission will also conduct an extensive study of the sociological and economic consequences of casino gambling.

"We will do a comprehensive baseline assessment, not just on compulsive gambling, not just on traffic, but on home values, job starts, utilization of public services, etc.," he said. "And we will track the consequences of gaming on those elements over many years."

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