BOSTON (AP) - The field of competitors for casino licenses in eastern andwestern Massachusetts took shape on Monday with several companies submittinginitial applications along with nonrefundable $400,000 application fees inadvance of a key deadline set by the state gaming commission.
Among them was Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn, who hopes to build aresort hotel and casino at the site of a former chemical plant in Everett, justnorth of Boston.
Also submitting a so-called Phase 1 application and paying the entry fee wasMohegan Sun, which has spent several years laying the groundwork for a resortcasino in Palmer.
The commission said a total of seven companies, including ones that hadsubmitted applications previously, had met the panel's deadline of 5 p.m.Tuesday. It was unclear if any other developers planned to step forward beforethe deadline arrived.
The state's 2011 casino law allows for up to three resort casinos inseparate regions of the state and one slots parlor.
Wynn, whose prominent Las Vegas properties include the Bellagio, The Mirageand Treasure Island, secured a lease on the 37-acre site in Everett afterabandoning an earlier plan to develop a resort casino in Foxborough on landowned by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.
A spokesman for Wynn did not immediately return a call seeking comment onMonday.
Also competing for the eastern Massachusetts casino license are theoperators of Suffolk Downs, who had paid the $400,000 fee earlier and formallysubmitted the application on Monday. They have partnered with Caesar'sEntertainment for a proposed $1 billion resort at the site of the 77-year-oldracetrack in East Boston.
"This is an economic development initiative that will set the standardfor gaming development in Massachusetts and will create thousands of new jobswith real career paths and room for advancement," Richard Fields, aprincipal owner of Suffolk Downs, said in a statement.
Mohegan Sun on Monday formally joined three other companies competing forthe western Massachusetts casino license. MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaminghave both proposed casinos in Springfield, and Hard Rock International onFriday announced plans to develop a resort at the Eastern States Exposition inWest Springfield.
Mitchell Estess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said it strucka partnership with New York investment group Brigade Capital Management tobankroll the development, which would feature gambling, a hotel, a spa, retailstores and restaurants on land adjacent to the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Though Mohegan has been working to develop relationships in Palmer for morethan three years, "Sometimes you need a deadline to get you to finish yourterm paper," Estess said of submitting the application just beforeTuesday's deadline.
Mohegan's Connecticut casino is approximately 85 miles southeast of Palmer.The company also operates a gambling hall in Pennsylvania.
Jennifer Baruffaldi, spokeswoman for the Citizens for Jobs and Growth inPalmer, said members of the pro-casino group are applauding Mohegan Sun formoving forward with plans that could bring jobs and revenue to the town.
But members of Quaboag Valley Against Casinos said a casino could bring moretraffic, divert business from local shops and lure residents to gamble rent andgrocery money.
"It brings prostitutes. It brings in drugs," said Iris Cardin,president of the anti-casino group. "This isn't Las Vegas."
The casino law gave first crack in the southeastern Massachusetts region toa federally recognized Massachusetts Indian tribe. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribehas proposed a casino for Taunton, but the gaming commission has said it couldbegin accepting applications from commercial developers later this year if thetribe does not demonstrate progress in renegotiating a casino compact with thestate that was rejected by the U.S. Interior Department or advancing a bid toplace the Taunton land in federal trust.
So far, only the Plainridge harness racetrack in Plainville has formallyapplied for the sole license to operate a slots-only facility. George Carney,president of Raynham Park, a former dog-racing track, told The Associated Pressin December that he also planned to seek the slots license.
The gaming commission expects to spend several months reviewing thefinancial qualifications and backgrounds of the applicants before proceeding toa second and more competitive phase of the casino selection process.