A bill that would add a fourth casino region in Massachusetts is dead … at least for this legislative session.
State Sen. John Cronin confirmed with PlayMA he sent his bill, S258, to study (a committee analyzes the bill and decides whether it should be put to the legislature for a vote) but that it’s dead in the water for now.
“The bill was sent to study, and there is no plan to attach the language to another bill at this time,” Cronin said. “The bill is dead for this session.”
Cronin’s bill proposed to add a new casino in the Leominster area.
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On a good day, it would take a gambler an hour to drive from Leominster to Encore Boston Harbor. Throw in some inclement weather and a couple of accidents, and that commute could double.
Massachusetts allows casinos in the state in three regions. Cronin’s bill would open the door to a new casino in Leominster or in surrounding communities, such as Fitchburg, Lunenburg or Ashburnham.
Cronin told PlayMA that Worcester County and Southern New Hampshire residents are at a disadvantage because of how the current three regions are drawn.
“An independent economic impact study indicates that Worcester County and southern New Hampshire residents are underserved by the current regional configuration,” Cronin said. “So, this plan would repatriate central Massachusetts players leaving the state and attract new players from the southern New Hampshire market.”
As it stands now, there are three casino regions and two full-service casinos in the state. Region A stretches from Worcester County to the Atlantic Ocean but checks up at Plymouth and Bristol counties. Those two counties represent the northern border of Region C. It encompasses everything south of the Norfolk County line, including the cape. Region B includes everything west of Worcester County.
The state’s most notable casino, Encore Boston Harbor, is in Region A. MGM Springfield is in Region B. The slots-only Plainridge Park Casino is in Region C.
The residents of the Leominster area are at least an hour away from all the state’s casinos. That’s one selling point of building a new casino there. Another is that it would be far enough away from other casinos to not impact their revenue.
Additionally, placing a casino near Massachusetts’ northern border would, in theory, capture some money from New Hampshire gamblers.
Casino could be big boost to area
Cronin named three benefits of a new casino in the Leominster area:
- Construction jobs
- Permanent jobs
- Tourism dollars
He predicted it would generate “thousands of new construction jobs.” Once open, it would provide plenty of “high paying jobs” for the area. Eventually, it would generate crucial tax dollars to support the region.
“This development will boost tourism and generate millions for the local economy and tax base each year that will result in a multiplier effect on economic growth in North Central Massachusetts,” Cronin said.
The bill is backed by a local development firm, Leominster Development Group. The proposal also says the casino would have to be on a site “containing not less than 70 contiguous acres.” This inclusion seems to favor a bigger casino development.
Senator optimistic despite expected pushback
There are three slices in the casino revenue pie in Massachusetts right now. Adding a newcomer to that revenue pool via a new district will stir up some pushback. Cronin doesn’t seem fazed by the naysayers, though.
“Anytime something new is introduced, it’s natural to get pushback. But I’m confident once the full case can be made, this proposal can win on its merits.”
Cronin didn’t provide any details about what he sees happening to the bill after this legislative session.