BOSTON — Three firms competing to operate the state’s first and only slots parlor made pitches Monday to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, with each touting their respective locations as superior to the others.
Cordish Cos., Penn National Gaming and Raynham Park made formal presentations to the five-member panel that expects to award the slots-only license in late December or early January.
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After hearing their presentations, commissioner Chairman Stephen Crosby said the panel faces a “tough choice.”
The winning firm would be the first facility licensed and almost certainly the first to open under the state’s 2011 expanded gambling law, which also allows for up to three regional resort casinos.
All three companies promised to install the maximum 1,250 slot machines allowed under the state law.
Penn National said it would continue harness racing at the Plainridge track in Plainville, while Raynham Park said it would seek to be a “safety net” for harness racing if it won the slots parlor license and Plainridge subsequently closed.
Cordish, with no plans to offer racing, touted its location in Leominster as ideal because it is at least one hour from any of the proposed resort casinos in Massachusetts and “would not cannibalize the big three,” said David Cordish, chairman of the Baltimore-based company.
By contrast, he said, Plainridge and Raynham were both near where the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe hopes to build a resort casino in Taunton.
Cordish also said it would create jobs beyond gambling in the region by providing up to $1.5 million a year to help startup medical device firms through a partnership with the University of Massachusetts.
Cordish projected a July 2015 opening date for its $200 million slots parlor, adding it could open six months earlier under an alternative construction plan.
But Penn National Gaming and Raynham Park officials both told the commission they could begin slots gambling sooner because they would be building upon existing facilities.
Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National touted easy access to Plainridge from Route 1 and Interstate 495, and promised $4 million in other traffic improvements. They also said the site’s close proximity to Rhode Island would help it capture business that now leaves Massachusetts and goes to the Twin Rivers casino in Lincoln, R.I.
The company said its proposal would save harness racing in Massachusetts.
“Horse racing is in our DNA,” said Timothy Wilmott, president of Penn National, which operates combined racing and casino operations in other states.
Longtime Raynham Park operator George Carney has partnered with Greenwood Racing, owner of Parx Casino outside Philadelphia, for a $168 million slots parlor at the facility that has been offering simulcasting since voters outlawed dog racing in Massachusetts four years ago.
“It seemed like four lifetimes before I would get here today,” Carney said. “Just to be one of the finalists in the selection process makes me feel very good.”
Tony Ricci, Greenwood’s chief executive, said Raynham was the superior location because it’s just 30 miles from Boston and near a proposed commuter rail stop. Ricci also contended that Raynham posted superior revenues to Plainridge when both operated as race tracks.
Raynham would apply for 40 days of harness racing in Brockton if it won the slots license and Plainridge, the only current harness track in Massachusetts, subsequently shut down, Carney said.