State denies gambling license for proposed Brockton casino

BOSTON (AP) — Two major resort casinos won’t duke it out in Massachusetts’ southeastern corner after all.

Mass Gaming & Entertainment lost its bid to build a resort in Brockton on Thursday after the state Gaming Commission voted 4-1 to deny it a gambling license. The decision marked another victory for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which has been building a nearly $1 billion resort on sovereign land in nearby Taunton that does not require state approval.

Joe Baerlein, a spokesman for Mass Gaming & Entertainment, said the company was disappointed but thanked the commission for its “thoughtful” deliberation. “If given the opportunity, we are confident we would have built a great project,” he said.

Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s council chairman, praised the commission for “making a difficult but wise and just decision.” With no rival in the region, a deal between the state and tribe to have its First Light casino pay 17 percent of all gambling revenues to the state remains intact.

“Historically, our people have been the recipients of a string of broken promises,” Cromwell said. “Today is not one of those days. Today, the gaming commission upheld the Commonwealth’s end of the bargain, paving the way for a fruitful economic partnership.”

Mass Gaming & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Chicago’s Rush Street Gaming, had been the lone applicant for the state’s third and final resort casino license.

Thursday’s decision capped three days of deliberations in which commission members largely panned the $677 million casino, hotel and entertainment complex envisioned for the Brockton fairgrounds.

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, during a withering assessment of the project the day earlier, described it as a “great disappointment” because it lacked a coherent plan to revitalize the economically struggling city around it.

“The expanded gaming legislation made a high priority that our facilities should be ‘destination resort casinos’ with a deep commitment to associated economic development,” he concluded. “This proposal presents a plan for a nice local convenience casino.”

Other commissioners noted the casino would face significant headwinds from the tribe’s much flashier casino, which broke ground earlier this month and is backed by the Genting Group, the Malaysian owners of the Resorts World casino chain.

Adding the Brockton project to the state’s current mix of gambling facilities would also negatively impact state gambling taxes, a consultant’s report suggested. Wynn and MGM have already been approved for casino licenses in other corners of the state and the Plainridge Park slots parlor opened in Plainville last summer.

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter, a supporter of the Mass Gaming & Entertainment proposal, didn’t immediately comment Thursday, but in a letter to the commission pushed back at its negative assessments.

“Rebuilding Brockton’s economy has always been an integral part of the plan,” he wrote, arguing that the former manufacturing city of over 90,000 residents didn’t have a “four-star hotel” or “first-class restaurants” like the casino promised.

John E. Taylor, Jr. Chairman of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, also released a statement in response to the decision.

“From an economic viability perspective, we believe the Massachusetts Gaming Commission made the right decision today.

The addition of one destination casino in the Southeast region of the Commonwealth as envisioned by the Mashpee Wampanoags is by itself a considerable project and we imagine it would have been difficult for a second one in such close proximity to adequately compete, particularly given that the tribe would have enjoyed an even more favorable tax rate had the proposal been approved.

That said, we have long planned for the addition of a destination casino in this region and still further believe that our vision for a convenience casino in Tiverton – steps from the Massachusetts border and with easy highway access
to a densely populated area – is the best option for Rhode Island to create 450 new jobs and preserve critical state revenue. Even with a destination casino in Taunton, we believe annual revenue to the state from a Tiverton casino will be in the neighborhood of $50 million, an increase from $27 million in Fiscal Year 2015.

We look forward to our statewide conversation with voters in Rhode Island and in Tiverton on the merits of locating a casino there.”

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