BOSTON (CBS) – One week from today, hopeful casino developers will have to ante up a huge fee if they want to be considered for a state casino license. But the truth is, it could be years before any resort style casino ever opens its doors. Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve says some gaming experts can’t understand why Massachusetts is moving so slowly.
Half of the gamblers at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island make the trip from Massachusetts. This is right, half! The parking lot is jammed with out of state plates. And the truth is, they will keep coming for years to come even though Massachusetts lawmakers approved gambling in 2011.
Industry experts point out other states moved at a much quicker pace once legislation passed, Maryland and Ohio had casinos open in two years. However, in Massachusetts resort casinos could take six.
Clyde Barrow is a casino expert. “We already are going to be last to market,” he says. “We are losing a billion dollars a year to Connecticut and Rhode Island and that translates into about 250 million dollars in lost tax revenue every year.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has said it will not issue the first resort casino licenses until February 2014 and those resorts could take an additional three years to build. The State’s Casino Chairman, Steve Crosby, does not apologize for the multi-year process.
“The legislature said job one was integrity, integrity of the process, so we will not compromise integrity for speed,” he says.
Roger Gros is a gaming expert from Las Vegas and publisher of the Global Gaming Business Magazine.
“Again, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” says Gros.
“By the time Massachusetts gets into the ballgame there are going to be many, many more competitors around them, so the revenue that will actually come into the state will be much smaller.”
And he may be right. A new casino opened in Oxford, Maine last June, just two years after voters approved. And just like Twin River Casino in Rhode Island, it too has expansion plans. New Hampshire is also considering casino gambling at Rockingham Park just across the Massachusetts border.
Clyde Barrow put it this way. “I think Massachusetts remains an attractive market but the longer we wait, the less attractive it becomes, which means fewer and lower quality proposals.”
The state’s Casino Chairman, Steve Crosby, disagrees. “People are going to go to the most convenient, best facility,” he says. “The process that we are going thru is going to guarantee that we have most convenient and the best facility.”
And Crosby adds that he is not worried. He says all of the state’s income projections already factored in increased competition from our neighbors.
Now in addition to the resort style casino licenses, the state will also issue one casino license for a slots parlor. That license could be issued by the end of this year. A spokesperson for the state gaming commission says if that license is awarded to an existing facility like Plainridge or Raynham race tracks, a simpler slots parlor could be renovated and open in 2014.
The spokesperson says they are expediting the slots parlor license process partially because there has been concern the process was taking too long.