Casino deadline

The casino competition in Massachusetts gets real today. Would-be developers have until 5 pm Tuesday to apply for a casino license and submit a non-refundable $400,000 deposit. The deadline, which comes nearly a year after Massachusetts legalized casino gambling, marks the end of an extended period of  quiet wrangling, maneuvering, lobbying and posturing, and the beginning of the bruising final push toward the state’s four gambling licenses.

The competition has rounded into shape over the past week. Western Massachusetts, the least populated of the state’s three casino regions, is also the scene of the most crowded competition for a license. That fact likely says less about the appeal of Springfield and Palmer as gambling destinations than it says about the way lawmakers wired the other two regions for Boston and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Large casino firms Penn National, MGM Resorts and Hard Rock International are all chasing a license around Springfield, while the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, owners of the Mohegan Sun tribal casino in Connecticut, are guarding their flank by bidding on a license for Palmer.

The situation is more unsettled in the Boston region, which stretches from Worcester to Boston Harbor to the New Hampshire border. The region looked like it was drawn to give Suffolk Downs an inside shot at the state’s most lucrative license, but that calculus has been upended by the late entrance of a pair of competitors. The Globe reports today that Chicago gambling firm Rush Street Gaming will apply for a license in the Boston region without having nailed down a casino location yet. And then there’s Everett. Steve Wynn, broomed out of Foxborough by a wave of anti-casino protests, has found a more welcoming reception in the riverfront industrial city.

You know Wynn is for real when Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who became a gambling supporter once his friend Joe O’Donnell became part of the Suffolk Downs deal, starts shooting thinly-veiled threats across the Mystic River at Wynn. Last week, he noted that “ I own part of the Everett piece,” and that “to get into the piece, you have to go through my property.” Aha. “They never spoke to me.” Hizzoner also added: “Heh heh. Ha ha ha ha ha. Hahaah.” He later insisted that “I was being a little wise,” and wasn’t really threatening to derail the Las Vegas developer’s Everett deal. What he didn’t do was clarify how being an elected municipal head makes Route 99, a state road running from Charlestown to Everett, “my property.”

Developer David Nunes, who has been chasing a casino site in Milford for years, has repeatedly vowed that he’ll be in the mix as well, but he has yet to produce a $400,000 check, or to name his financial partners.

Also of note: In addition to being the deadline for getting in line for a gambling license, Tuesday is the deadline for casino developers and other Beacon Hill power players to report their final 2012 lobbying expenses to the secretary of state’s office. So by the end of the day, we’ll know both who’s for real in the casino game, and how much it cost to get there. 

                                                                                    –PAUL MCMORROW


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