Massachusetts Voters Reject Three Casinos

Three proposals shot down, but three expect green light

On Nov. 5, voters in East Boston and Palmer, Mass., rejected two proposed casino projects vying for gaming licenses that are close to being awarded in the state. Two weeks later, a Foxwoods proposal for Milford also was voted down.

In East Boston, a plan to create a casino at the Suffolk Downs race track was turned down, its fate perhaps sealed weeks earlier when developer Caesars Entertainment pulled out of the project due to Massachusetts Gaming Commission concerns about Caesars' relationship with a partner at a separate hotel project. The casino plan still has some life in it -- the race track lies partially in adjacent Revere, Mass., whose residents approved the project, prompting officials to propose moving the casino entirely to Revere.

In Palmer, a casino project proposed by Mohegan Sun barely lost a vote to proceed; the tally was 50.89 percent against to 49.11 percent in favor; a recount was scheduled for Nov. 26 to confirm the narrow result.

The Foxwoods project was approved in a suitability hearing on Nov. 13, but was voted down 65 percent to 35 percent in its host-community referendum on Nov. 19 (state gaming regulations require "a certain amount of local control"  on projects, according to an MGC spokesperson).

While the rejections seem to send a message that Mas­sa­chusetts residents are wary about gaming, plenty of proposed casino-hotels have made it through the state's approval process and moved on to suitability hearings with the MGC, which is expected to award three licenses by April 2014.

The state has been split into eastern, western and southeastern regions, each of which would see a single casino resort built. In the west, a project for Springfield spearheaded by MGM has passed the community test and is awaiting a suitability hearing. A site-specific application would then be due by Dec. 31. In the east, two proposals -- one from Wynn and one from Crossroads Massachusetts -- are finishing up the same determinations.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's Project First Light in Taunton is the top contender for a license in the southeast.

"We've already seen the positive results of the competition manifest itself, forcing the applicants to put their best foot forward," said the MGC spokesperson.