BOSTON (AP) - The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Monday disqualified the owners of the Plainridge Racecourse from pursuing the state's sole slots parlor license.
The commission said in a statement that Plainridge's owners failed to present "clear and convincing evidence as to business practices that will likely lead to a successful gaming operation."
The decision leaves four other slots applicants. The commission is expected to make its final selection before the end of the year.
Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said the decision to disqualify Plainridge - operating under the business name of Ourway Realty LLC - followed a comprehensive background investigation and deliberations by the five-member commission.
"The Commission has determined that Ourway Realty LLC has failed to meet its burden of proof, particularly as to the business practices and the business ability of the applicant to establish and maintain a successful gaming establishment," the commission report said.
The commission said the investigation revealed what it called "a culture of fear and concealment pervasive in the operations" of the Plainville facility. It said the most notable concern were "deeply troubling" practices of the former Plainridge president Gary Piontkowski.
In addition, the commission said, the decision by Plainridge Racecourse to remove Piontkowski and replace him with John Grogan as the president of Ourway on April 3 didn't go far enough to dispel the commission's concerns.
"Little to none" of Grogan's experience is in the gambling arena and improvements he's claimed to have made to Plainridge "serve neither to entirely neutralize the past transgressions," the commission said.
In response, Plainridge spokesman Bill Ryan said only that the company was disappointed by the commission decision and was evaluating its options.
"Its existing harness racing operation and relationship with the community of Plainville are of paramount importance moving forward," Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the commission also announced it will allow Raynham Park to move forward on a slots proposal.
In June, the Raynham Board of Selectmen approved a host community agreement with the developer. Under the terms of the agreement, the town would receive annual fees of more than $1.1 million. The agreement must be approved in a town-wide referendum Aug. 13 for Raynham Park to be eligible for a state license.
Raynham Park owner George Carney said he hopes local residents will back the proposal, which he said will bring jobs and revenue to the state.
The commission last month voted to qualify Mass Gaming & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, and PPE Casino Resorts, affiliated with Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. Both companies are also pursuing the slots parlor license. The qualification also followed criminal and financial background checks required for all slots parlor and casino applicants.
A fourth slots parlor applicant, Penn National, will have a suitability hearing at the end of this month.