AG warns of over-saturating casino market

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Written by Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON   The decision by prospective developers to abandon plans for a resort casino on the New Bedford waterfront brings into “sharp focus” the threat of over-saturating the gambling market in Massachusetts with a third casino, Attorney General Maura Healey told the News Service on Thursday.

KG Urban wrote a letter to the Gaming Commission on Wednesday announcing that it would drop its bid to build a casino in New Bedford, despite voters in that city overwhelmingly approving the concept of a casino. The developers cited their inability to put together financing for the project, as well as the “possibility of competition from a nearby Indian casino which would pay no taxes or other compensation to the Commonwealth.”

Healey, who supported an unsuccessful 2014 ballot question repealing the casino law, said she hoped the Gaming Commission would take the latest development as an opportunity to review the prudence of licensing another casino in southeastern Massachusetts.

“I think the Gaming Commission has to take a hard look at this. What we see in New Bedford is a reflection of some of the concerns that have been expressed already about market saturation and what’s happening in that region and it’s a really important issue and I hope the Gaming Commission take this opportunity to task a hard look at what is happening in the region,” Healey said.

With the New Bedford developers out of the competition for a license, the Gaming Commission is left with one commercial proposal in the region – Mass Gaming & Entertainment’s plan to build a casino in Brockton. Commissioners had expressed their desire to have at least two bids to create competition for the license, and planned to discuss KG Urban’s withdrawal at a meeting Thursday.

The Mashpee Wampanoag has plans for a casino in Taunton, but that project has stalled as the tribe seeks federal approval for land to be taken into trust as native tribal lands. If it wins federal approval, the tribe could build a casino without a license from the commission.

“You don’t want to have a situation where casinos operate and fail. That’s not going to be good for taxpayers, it’s not going to be good for the state and it’s certainly not going to be good for the communities surrounding the places where the casinos are going to operate,” Healey said.

Plainridge Park Casino, which won the state’s sole slot parlor license, has begun operations in southeastern Massachusetts and out-of-state gaming venues in Rhode Island and Connecticut compete for customers from Massachusetts.