BOSTON (AP) — Officials of Penn National Gaming, the first company to hold a license for expanded gambling in Massachusetts, said Friday they would begin design work next week at the Plainridge harness racetrack in Massachusetts with an eye toward opening the state’s first slots parlor by next spring.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports
The state gambling commission voted Friday to formally awarded the five-year operating license to Wyomissing-Pa.-based Penn National after the company agreed to 18 mostly technical conditions attached to the award.
“Congratulations and welcome to Massachusetts,” commission chairman Stephen Crosby told Penn National executives immediately after the unanimous vote, which came one day after the panel voted 3-2 in favor of the Plainville bid. Crosby had supported a competing bid from Cordish Cos. for a slots parlor in Leominster, but he and Commissioner James McHugh, who also backed Leominster, joined with the three other commissioners in the licensing vote.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports on what’s next for the gaming commission
Crosby had nothing but praise for Penn National on Friday, noting the company had promised to create 1000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs, secure the future of harness racing and attack problem gambling.
The license was the first awarded by the commission under the state’s 2011 expanded gambling law that also allows for up to three resort casinos. The smaller Plainville casino will be limited to 1,250 slot machines with no Las Vegas-style table games.
Tim Wilmott, Penn National’s chief executive, said the company was aware of the competition it would likely face in the future from larger casinos in Massachusetts.
“We are not afraid of competition,” Wilmott said. “We like the fact that we are going to get a head start and be able to develop relationships with customers at our facilities for a couple of years before other competition comes in. We think the market is big enough.”
The commission is expected to vote in the coming months of casino licenses in the greater Boston area and in western Massachusetts. Additionally, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is seeking federal approval for a tribal casino in Taunton, about 17 miles from Plainridge.
Wilmott said the company would launch an aggressive marketing campaign, including television, online and outdoor advertising, not only to attract new business, but also to capture gamblers from Massachusetts who now travel south to the Twin Rivers casino, less than a half hour away in Lincoln, R.I. Twin Rivers recently added table games to slot machines, in anticipation of competition from Massachusetts.
Penn National executives were visiting Plainridge on Friday to celebrate the license with about 100 current employees. He said a design team would be at the track Monday to begin planning for construction of the slots parlor, and hoped to announce a groundbreaking date soon.
Penn National has not ruled out the possibility of seeking a partial slots parlor opening within six months, but Wilmott added a permanent facility was likely to make a better first impression on customers.
The company must pay a $25 million licensing fee to Massachusetts within 30 days.
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