Leominster group pursuing fourth casino region

A group of Leominster business officials, with the help of former Senate president and now lobbyist Stan Rosenberg, is pursuing a long-shot, end-of-the-legislative-session bid to create a fourth casino region in Massachusetts in northern Worcester County.

Under current state law, there are three casino regions in Massachusetts. The A and B regions are home to Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and MGM Springfield, respectively. Region C in southeastern Massachusetts is currently unoccupied, although the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is hoping to open a casino in Taunton. A slots parlor is located at Plainridge Park in Plainville.

A group calling itself the Leominster Development Group is seeking to carve out a fourth region, called D, which would be made up of the communities of Ashburnham, Fitchburg, Leominster, Lunenburg, and Westminster.

Sen. John Cronin of Leominster filed a bill to create region D, but he said that bill was sent to study, meaning it’s dead for this session as a standalone bill. As the legislative session winds down, he intends to submit the bill as an amendment to legislation likely to pass, such as the economic development bill. 

Richard Dionne, an attorney who serves as president of the Leominster Development Group, said the proposed region D is not well served by the existing casinos. Dionne said an analysis of the market conducted by a company hired by his group found a casino in the proposed region D would repatriate money currently flowing out of state, bring gamblers in from out of state, and have little impact on existing Massachusetts casinos. He declined to name the key players behind the development group.

Rosenberg as a state senator helped craft the state’s gaming legislation and for years argued against tinkering with it. But now, as a lobbyist for the Leominster Development Group, he says he is in favor of creating a new casino region in keeping with the original goals of the gambling legislation to create jobs and prevent gambling money from flowing out of state.

“It’s the right time to review this,” he said.

The Cronin legislation has a curious requirement that no gaming license be issued in region D unless the facility is located on a site not less than 70 contiguous acres. Cronin said he had no comment on that requirement, but Dionne said it was included to make sure the new casino is big. 

“What the group wants is to bring a full resort casino to this area,” he said.

BRUCE MOHL 

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Legislature weighing in on T safety: Legislative leaders announce plans to hold oversight hearings on safety issues at the MBTA and a redrafted economic development bond bill coming up for a vote this week authorizes $400 million in bond funding to help the T address safety concerns raised by the Federal Transit Authority.

“The FTA’s findings and the MBTA’s subsequent service cuts don’t inspire any public confidence in our transit system,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka in a joint statement. “Since 2015, at his request, Gov. [Charlie] Baker has had control of the MBTA. It has since been the administration’s responsibility to keep up with maintenance and manage an efficient system that customers can rely on. Given the FTA’s interim findings and alarming directives, there is an increased need to better understand the agency’s shortcomings and help restore public confidence.”

– Rep. William Straus, the House chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, which will conduct the oversight hearings, said the $400 million in bond funding added to an economic development bill is a placeholder that can be adjusted up or down. The expectation is that safety directives issued by the FTA will come with hefty price tags. Read more.

East-West rail funding: The redrafted economic development bill contains language authorizing $250 million for development of a rail link between Worcester and Pittsfield, but says nothing about a new authority to oversee the multi-billion-dollar project. Gov. Charlie Baker had pushed for the new authority, but House and Senate leaders say other work needs to be done first. Read more.

SJC to rule in moot DiMasi case: The Supreme Judicial Court agrees to hear an appeal of the Sal DiMasi lobbying case even though the decision will no longer have any impact on the former House speaker himself. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 of public corruption and extortion. He sought to become a lobbyist in 2019, but Secretary of State William Galvin refused to register him. DiMasi won on appeal, arguing the state law banning convicted felons from registering as lobbyists applied to people convicted of state, not federal, crimes. Galvin appealed, and the SJC decided even though the 10-year time limit has passed it will rule on the matter because the legal issue “is of great public importance and is likely to recur.” Read more.

OPINION

Promoting Pier 5: Sherrie Cutler, Rosemary Macero, and Kathy Elliott explain why the abandoned Pier 5 in Charlestown matters to the city of Boston and could become an iconic open space. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

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A proposal for a Taco Bell restaurant in Mattapan Square in Boston is withdrawn after pushback from people in the neighborhood. (Dorchester Reporter)

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WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Jan. 6 Committee says President Trump engaged in a campaign against state and local election officials, putting in physical danger those who refused to help him overturn the election. (Washington Post)

President Biden will urge Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months and urges states to do the same with their gas taxes, according to the Washington Post. The move comes as Democrats in Massachusetts have resisted efforts to suspend the gas tax here. 

A gun bill passes an initial vote in the US Senate. The measure would enhance background checks and give authorities up to 10 days to review the juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers younger than 21. It would also steer financial resources to states that implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous. (New York Times)

The US Supreme Court rules that any state using state money to send students to private schools must also allow the money to go to students attending religious schools. The ruling came in a case originating in Maine. (NPR)

ELECTIONS

Secretary of State candidate Tanisha Sullivan calls for “new blood” and fresh ideas in the office. (Gloucester Daily Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Massachusetts housing prices continue to skyrocket. (Eagle-Tribune)

A Boston Globe editorial pans the latest  proposal for expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston.

EDUCATION

Boston names two finalists for the position of school superintendent – Somerville superintendent Mary Skipper and Boston regional superintendent Tommy Welch. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell pitches state Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler on money to renovate the New Bedford Regional Airport and the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge. (South Coast Today)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hundreds of dead birds wash up on Martha’s Vineyard, with avian flu the suspected cause. (WBUR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A man is charged with trying to burn down the Satanic Temple in Salem. (Salem News)

Most police departments have submitted names and information about the first group of officers who need to be certified under new state rules requiring police to comply with certain training and character requirements. (MassLive)

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office’s COVID sniffing dogs are now trained in therapy. (Standard-Times)