Massachusetts authorized casinos back in 2011, but thus far only the state’s lone slots parlor, Plainridge Park Casino, has opened its doors.
Massachusetts’ cautious approach to approving casino projects has hampered the state’s other two casino projects. That problem is coupled with destination casinos’ larger potential footprints and virgin construction sites. (Plainridge Park Casino simply incorporated the existing Plainridge Park Racetrack.)
- Various lawsuits.
- The need to go to arbitration with surrounding communities over revenue sharing agreements.
- A casino repeal referendum in 2014 that brought any plans of construction to a grinding halt.
But it appears in the not-so-distant future the state’s other, larger casinos will join Plainridge. Construction at the two destination casinos, MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor, is on track, and both projects now have firm timelines for opening.
Timeline for opening
The $2.1 billion Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett should open in Q1 of 2019. The $1 billion MGM Springfield, which sits on 14 acres in downtown Springfield, is on track to open in fall 2018.
“We are really being blessed by a warm winter,” MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis told MassLive.com. “This is our second mild winter, which is really helping with activity around the site. We feel really good about construction.”
Mathis further narrowed the timeline for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to September 2018.
Tribal casino faces its own delays
A potential third casino that was supposed to open sometime this year — the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s First Light Casino in Taunton — has run into its own delays. Those stem from a lawsuit filed by Taunton resident Michelle Littlefield.
On July 28, US District Court Judge William Young ruled in favor of Littlefield. That has left the fate of the third Massachusetts casino in limbo. The lawsuit claims the Department of the Interior should not have placed the Mashpee Wampanoag’s land in trust — one of the requisites for building a tribal casino — with which Judge Young agreed on the following grounds:
“In light of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of ‘now under Federal jurisdiction’ to mean under federal jurisdiction in June 1934, the Secretary (of the Interior) lacked the authority to acquire the land in trust for the Mashpee, as they were not then under federal jurisdiction.”
The tribe is appealing the decision, but plans for the First Light Casino are on hold. That means MGM Springfield will likely be the first full casino to open in Massachusetts.
MGM Springfield is a real test for MA pilot programs
All Massachusetts casinos will implement two interesting responsible gaming pilot programs.
The two programs, PlayMyWay and GameSense, are already in place at Plainridge Park Casino. They’ve been well-received. But the true test for these programs will be MGM Springfield, a much larger casino with far more gaming options.
Both programs have produced solid early results, with more than 7,000 Plainridge Park Casino customers using PlayMyWay. That is a pre-commitment program that allows players to set a non-binding gambling budget. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents tell researchers they would visit GameSense info centers again; 87.7 percent of survey respondents say they resolved their primary concern by visiting the GameSense info center or speaking with a GameSense advisor.
— MA Gaming Commission (@MassGamingComm) January 5, 2017
Image credit: Wynn Boston Harbor website