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Awarding Of Eastern Mass. Casino License To Be Delayed

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The awarding of two of the state's three casino licenses will be delayed at least three months, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced Thursday.

The eastern Massachusetts license was scheduled to be awarded in May, but hearings about the ongoing dispute over the city of Boston's argument that it should be considered a host community will push that date back to August at the earliest.

"I think it's the right thing to do, but I hope everybody will be mindful that a big price is being paid by a lot of people to try and accommodate the city's concerns," Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby said Thursday.

In southeastern Massachusetts, commissioners announced they would continue to accept applications for an additional two months, through September.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has already signed a compact with Gov. Deval Patrick to open a casino in that region, but they face hurdles to getting their land in Taunton taken into trust by the federal government.

Crosby expressed concern that the delay would not generate renewed interest in the region.

"The circumstances just aren't going to change," Crosby said. "The reason these deals haven't come together is because that nobody knows what to do in a market that is congested and has the significant possibility of a no-tax rate tribe casino."

That statement comes after potential casino developers told The Standard Times of New Bedford they would be unlikely to bid for a license in that region without concessions from the state, including a lowering of the $500 million minimum investment a company must make in building a casino in Massachusetts.

Gaming commission members briefly discussed that option before deciding to table it for future hearings.

After the meeting, officials from Fall River, the only other community working to bring a casino to southeastern Massachusetts, said they expected to meet the original deadline.

"The way it stands now, we're pretty much ready to rock and roll," said Kenneth Fiola Jr., the vice president of Fall River's Office of Economic Development. Fiola added that he expected the city to release a host community agreement with Foxwoods as early as next week.

Jack Lepiarz Twitter Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz is a reporter and anchor at WBUR.