December Will be Pivotal Month for MA Casino Race

Massachusetts is not a state to have suffered during 2013 for a lack of attention to its casino licensing process, and with good reason.

With some of the most stringent background checks in the nation, not to mention one of the hottest races between big-name gaming companies to win one of the highly sought after licenses, the Bay State is turning out to be a formidable proving ground.

And with a looming December 31 application deadline, the last month of 2013 will be a pivotal one for those companies that are still in contention to gain one of three permits that will be handed out in early 2013 – two for full-scale casino resorts and yet another for a slots-only gambling parlor.

Massachusetts passed a law to allow for land-based casino expansion back in 2011, and like many of its fellow states across the nation, it is hoping to poach gamblers, and their revenue, from neighboring states.

Some companies failed to pass critical public votes

Under the terms of that law, before a casino plan can move forward and be considered by Massachusetts state gaming regulators, it must be approved by local residents in a public referendum.

Those public referendums have proven a sticky widget for a few casinos hoping to plant stakes in the state, with Hard Rock, Mohegan Sun, Suffolk Downs, Foxwoods all failing to pass muster with citizens. Despite the lack of success for those companies at the polls, state gaming officials maintain that there are still enough gaming companies left standing for plans to move ahead.

“We have every expectation that we will have at least one quality applicant,” said Massachusetts Gaming Commission head Stephen Crosby, expressing confidence that a casino would be deemed suitable for each region in which an operating license will be granted.

One will be issued for the greater Boston metropolitan area and another for western Massachusetts. Additionally, the commission will be handing down the sole slots license sometime next month, reportedly as soon as January 10.

MGM and Wynn, both of which met with resounding approval in their own public referendums held this past summer, are each slated to find out the results of background investigations in the coming weeks. Next week on December 9, Massachusetts regulators will hold a hearing with regard to MGM’s background report with the Wynn hearing set to take place a week later on December 16, reported

Should both companies pass muster, they will be in contention to construct casinos in Everett (Wynn) and Springfield (MGM).

Background checks said to be among the harshest in the nation

Much like the public votes, the thorough background checks initiated by the Gaming Commission have helped to winnow the field of competitors.

In late October, many were shocked at the sudden exit from Massachusetts by Caesars, the former partner of Suffolk Downs in an East Boston casino proposal that would have seen the construction of a full-scale casino at the site of Suffolk Downs’ historic racetrack. Caesars had been warned that the company was likely to be found unsuitable after routine background checks found that an investor in a now-terminated Nevada hotel redevelopment project, German national Arik Kislin, has alleged ties to Russian organized crime.

Caesars and Kislin, as well as the hotel with which he is associated, New York-based Gansevoort, condemned Massachusetts regulators as being far too harsh. For its part, last week Suffolk Downs announced that it had partnered with another referendum loser, Mohegan Sun, and that the newly-formed pair are working to rejigger their casino plan to fit entirely within the city of Revere, whose voters thumbs-upped the proposal at the polls on November 5.

For a roundup of where all the applicants currently stand, the Boston Globe has an article detailing the present status of the Massachusetts casino licensing process.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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