Mass. gaming panel rejects bids for extensions
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gambling regulators denied several requests Thursday for extensions from the recently-passed deadline for submitting initial casino applications and $400,000 entry fees.
Among those seeking waivers from the Jan. 15 deadline were two companies that hoped to build casinos in Holyoke and complained of the shifting position of the city's mayor on whether to negotiate with developers.
Chicopee's mayor asked the commission to allow him more time to lure a potential developer to his city, while another company, citing the recent death of a financial backer, sought an extension until Feb. 8.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously rejected all of the requests, saying they did not meet its criteria for "extraordinary circumstances" required to extend the deadline, and because granting waivers would unnecessarily delay the process of reviewing applications and awarding casino licenses.
"We want competition. We've gone out of way to encourage competition and if there were legitimate proposals that could be fixed easily, then we would consider it," said Stephen Crosby, the commission chair.
"But we are not going to slow down the process for no good reason," he added.
Eleven firms hoping to compete for the eastern or western regional casino license, or for the single slots parlor license, met Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline to submit preliminary applications and the non-refundable application fee. The commission plans to conduct background checks on applicants over the next several months.
WM Development Co., also known as Paper City Development, said in its waiver request that it had been frustrated by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse's shifting stance. Morse had campaigned against casinos in the city, but in November announced he would entertain prospective developers, only to reverse himself again in December and rule out negotiations.
The company noted the Holyoke City Council is now considering scheduling a non-binding referendum on casino gambling on the same day as a potential special election to fill the seat of U.S. Sen. John Kerry. The firm asked the commission to grant an extension until after the vote, likely in about four to five months if Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state.
Charles Pettini, who for years has floated the idea of a not-for-profit casino that would turn over gambling profits to charities, made a similar request.
Pettini attempted to speak at Thursday's meeting, but was not allowed. "We just want fairness," he said.
Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette sought more time in a letter to the commission in which he cited a "legitimate expression of interest" from a potential casino developer within the past week. But the commission said there was no sign the city was close to a formal proposal.
"It was a Hail Mary pass," Crosby said of Chicopee's request.
SeaFan Trust, also known as Sun Moon Casino & Resort, submitted an application to the commissions just before Tuesday's deadline but the group — which claimed to represent the Nipmuc Indians — said it was unable to submit the $400,000 fee because a key funder had died days earlier.
While commissioners acknowledged the death might qualify as an extraordinary circumstance, they also said the application submitted was incomplete and that the group showed no credible ability to follow through on a casino bid.