Getting a Casino License has Become a Tricky Business


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has found MGM suitable to operate a casino in Springfield. The chairman of the commission, Stephen Crosby declared the MGM proposal to be a “genuinely ambitious and unusual effort.” It has only taken three years for a casino proposal to find favor in Crosby’s eyes. He has been a hard person to please. One license for a racino has been granted and it should open next year. There has been no estimate on the opening of the $800 million MGM project. One hurdle remains for MGM moves forward, the gaming legislation needs to survive an attempt by voters to overturn it.

The state’s top gambling regulator says MGM’s $800 million casino plan for downtown Springfield is a “genuinely ambitious and unusual effort” that presents a “real possibility” for lifting the economic fortunes of the entire Pioneer Valley. Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, giving an overall assessment of the project on Wednesday at the MassMutual center, said he was convinced the casino plan is unique enough to compete against Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and draw tourists from Connecticut and New York. Crosby’s assessment completes the commission’s final review of MGM’s proposal, which is the lone applicant for the state’s western region casino license. Philip Marcelo, Associated Press, 6-12-14

There are two other casino licenses allowed by the gaming act, one for the Boston area and one for the Southeast. Steve Wynn and Mohegan Sun are competing for the Boston area license; the gaming commission is scheduled to hold hearings on that license this summer. But the process is far from clear as there are still some major legal hurdles to negotiate. The hearings for the Southeast license have been postponed because there are no bidders. And as the process wobbles on, a new poll shows the voters in Massachusetts no longer support casino gaming in the state.

State gambling officials are concerned Massachusetts won’t see any viable casino proposals emerge in the Fall River/New Bedford area and are considering delaying the licensing process another six months. The members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, at a meeting at the Hynes Convention Center Thursday, voiced support for pushing back the next deadline for the southeastern region casino license from Sept. 23 to March. The five-member panel had already pushed back the deadline from July. Philip Marcelo, Associated Press, 6-12-14

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission also voted in favor of a new license. The town of Jefferson is going to get a casino. Wild Rose Entertainment, which already operates two casinos in Iowa, is going to build a $40 million casino with 550 slot machines and 71 hotel rooms. Earlier this year, the commission denied Cedar Rapids the same privilege, claiming with 18 casinos, Iowa has too many casinos and any new casino would cannibalize existing ones.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to grant a license for a $40 million casino development that will be located in rural central Iowa. Supporters of the casino proposed in Jefferson, a town of 4,200 about 60 miles northwest of Des Moines, burst into applause when commission chairman Jeff Lamberti cast the deciding vote in favor of the license during a meeting in Burlington. Ryan Foley, Associated Press, 6-12-14

The Iowa gaming commission seems to think that Jefferson is far enough away to prevent any damage to other casinos. That may be, but the mayor of Cedar Rapids is calling foul and one of the candidates for governor agrees. Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jack Hatch, said that the state gaming commission’s decision to award a casino license in Jefferson was a “slap in the face” to Cedar Rapids and he promises things will be different if he is elected governor. And to cap off the news from Iowa, Penn National lost its appeal to keep its casinos in Sioux City.

The mayor of Iowa’s second-largest city says today’s decision to allow a new casino in Jefferson raises questions about why Cedar Rapids was rejected just two months ago. The five-member Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4-1 in April to deny a license for a $164 million proposed casino in Cedar Rapids after concluding a new casino would take as much as $60 million from existing casinos. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says he’s happy for Jefferson and its plan to build a $40 million casino. But Corbett questions the true rationale behind today’s 3-2 decision. Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, 6-12-14

State Senator Jack Hatch, the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, suggests the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission made a mistake two months ago in rejecting a casino license application from Cedar Rapids. “It might have taken a little bit of a market share away from another gambling casino, but we’re not in the business of guaranteeing profits for any of these casinos,” Hatch says. If he’s elected governor and the legislature passes a bill changing some of the criteria used to judge license applications, Hatch says he’d sign it into law. Radio Iowa, 6-12-14

Iowa, in 2014, is nearly as convoluted and confusing as Massachusetts. The casino industry used to be so simple; it was easy to follow and understand. But after it spread across the country and matured, nothing in the industry is as simple as it once was. Deciding which communities deserve a casino and which developers are best suited is now a very tricky business. There do not seem to be any fixed rules and for me, it is becoming very confusing.

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