In June 2014, MGM received one of three coveted casino licenses from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. But it wasn’t until May 12 of this year that the company officially broke ground on its billion-dollar casino project.
Delays for Mass. casinos
The opening of the slots parlor at Plainridge Park in Plainville, Massachusetts, was on time and went off without a hitch. But MGM and Wynn Resorts have been plagued by delays.
For Wynn, it’s local politics that have kept it from beginning construction on its proposed casino project, while MGM’s delays are more self-inflicted.
A failed ballot referendum in 2014 would have overturned the state’s 2011 casino law and delayed construction efforts across the board. Then MGM’s groundbreaking in Springfield hit a snag when the project started running way over budget, necessitating a last-minute redesign.
“The redesign, which included the removal of a 26-story hotel tower in favor a low-rise six-story building and a reduction in the project’s overall footprint, sparked months of controversy and discussion over whether the company was maintaining its full investment in the city.”
The redesign was approved by the MGC on May 12, and the casino is now expected to open in late 2018. The seven-year timeline is almost absurd, considering Massachusetts legalized casinos in 2011.
One casino’s loss is another casino’s gain
These delays have opened the door for a third casino, the First Light Casino currently being erected in Taunton by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Because of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the tribe can sidestep the regulatory restraints imposed on commercial casinos, eliminating many of the hurdles that have stalled the other casino projects in the Bay State.
The Wampanoag’s decision to break ground on the First Light Casino with or without the state’s blessing also torpedoed Rush Street Gaming’s proposed casino in nearby Brockton.
Instead of three commercial casinos, a slots parlor and a tribal casino all competing for business, the MGC has decided to limit the number of commercial casino licenses to two. That leaves the third in its back pocket for the time being.
Despite being the newest casino project in Massachusetts, the First Light Casino will be the first one (not including the Plainridge Racino) to open its doors. The casino portion of the project is expected to be completed sometime in 2017, with a hotel to follow in 2018.
Other problems brought on by casino delays
The delays could also prove detrimental to Massachusetts in another way. The construction delays are providing Connecticut’s two tribal casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods with a chance to limit the impact of the new casinos to the north.
The erection of the casinos in Massachusetts is expected to create a choke point, blocking off most of Foxwoods’ and Mohegan Sun’s northern customers , That is a historically important customer base for the Connecticut casinos, particularly the number of patrons from Massachusetts they attracted.
Had the Massachusetts casinos been erected in a timely fashion, it could have been a crushing blow for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. The respite caused by construction delays could give them enough time to implement contingency plans.