One by one, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission dispatched with appeals Thursday afternoon from three developers and one mayor seeking extensions to the deadline for gaming license applications.
“We are trying as hard as we can to move forward expeditiously to achieve the goal that the statute requires and issue these licenses,” said Commissioner James McHugh, who argued that granting an extension would slow down the process.
The decision not to grant extensions to the 5 p.m. Jan. 15 deadline maintains the number of applicants at 11.
Those 11 developers are seeking either the lone slots parlor license or one of the two currently available casino licenses in the eastern and western regions; the commission is holding off on the licensing process for the third possible license in the southeast region as it awaits word on how the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is faring in its bid for a reservation and a gaming compact.
The requests for extensions came from three entities hoping for casinos in the western part of the state, and one group, Seafan Trust, based in Brookline and called Sun Moon Casino & Resort, which did not specify where it wanted to build.
In Holyoke, Mayor Alex Morse wrote that he opposed two developers’ plans to develop a casino in the city. Both developers, Paper City Development and Good Sam’s Casino, had sought extensions.
Morse has been on both sides of the issue of casinos in Holyoke, telling the Boston Globe in December that his opposition had thawed, and he could support a proposal in the city. He told the Globe, “I think we’re all realizing that casinos are coming to Western Mass., and Holyoke cannot sit on the sidelines,” before reverting back to opposing casinos about a week later.
“[M]y position on this issue will not be changing,” Morse wrote in a letter to the commission dated Jan. 17. “To be clear: as Mayor, I will not negotiate a host agreement with any casino developer. No amount of additional time for any such developer will change that fact.”
The commission will not require prospective developers to select a site and secure a host community agreement until phase two, which will begin after background checks of the applicants have been completed, according to commission chairman Stephen Crosby.
A request for an extension from Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette was similarly denied, though he is holding out hope that one of the other developers who did submit an application under the deadline will select his city as the place to build. Bissonnette had sought an extension, writing that an unspecified developer had indicated a “very strong and legitimate expression of interest about a potential site in our city” within the past seven days.
“I am still intrigued by the Cabotville site and remain available for a serious discussion with any qualified operator or developer,” Bissonnette wrote in an email to the News Service. “The possibility for a transformative waterfront site in an urban setting to bring in jobs and revenue always merits my attention.”
Crosby said that developers who have selected a site could change their mind and choose a place in Chicopee, and the two applicants who did not indicate a geographic location in their application could likewise select Chicopee.
The request from Sun Moon, which was received just before the 5 p.m. deadline, according to commissioner Gayle Cameron, provided little information about the entity or the proposal. The Brookline-based group requested an extension because of the death of the person who was going to provide the $400,000 application fee.
The request for a one-month extension on the payment was not accompanied by a phase one application, commissioners said.
“It would be one thing if the application were filed and the application was in reasonable shape,” said McHugh.