MassGaming Discusses Criteria for Plainridge Park Casino License Renewal Process

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has begun the process of deciding how it will renew the license of Plainridge Park Casino, the first gambling venue to open doors under the state’s 2011 gambling expansion law.

Plainridge’s owner, Penn National Gaming, was granted a five-year license by Massachusetts regulators to operate the slots-only parlor that features more than 1,200 slot machines and a number of electronic table games. The gaming facility was launched on June 24, 2015 in Plainville, a town located about 40 minutes away from Boston.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued two more gaming licenses under the state’s expanded gambling law that authorized Las Vegas gambling giants MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts to open and operate full-fledged casinos as part of larger integrated resort.

MGM launched its MGM Springfield property in Springfield in August 2018, while Wynn Resorts debuted Encore Boston Harbor in the Greater Boston area this past June.

Setting Out the License Renewal Process

Before moving to considering the license renewal of Plainridge Park Casino, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission needs to set out the process that it will harness when mulling whether Penn National Gaming should be granted license extension.

Under Massachusetts’ 2011 gambling law, the commission has broad discretion to “develop a renewal process for the gaming licenses its issues”. The law reads that the license renewal process must include a renewal fee of at least $100,000 but very little other information that gaming commissioners can use when considering renewals.

Deputy General Counsel Todd Grossman wrote to gaming commissioners that the gambling law “includes some provisions relative to the renewal of […] licenses at the expiration of the initial terms, but the commission will have to develop and implement new regulations to effectively govern the renewal process.” Mr. Grossman added that prior to that, regulators will have to discuss a number of “broad policy questions” in order to be able to “lend guidance to the process.”

Structuring the Renewal Process

MassGaming’s five commissioners and Mr. Grossman this week began discussions on how the renewal process will be structured for Massachusetts’ single Category 2 license for the operation of a slots parlor. Mr. Grossman said that he plans to take input from commissioners and then draft the regulations for the renewal of Plainridge Park Casino’s license by early 2020.

In the first place, the gaming regulator discussed how it should approach the question of Penn’s suitability to operate a gambling venue on the territory of Massachusetts. Under state law, casino license holders and their executives must be deemed suitable to hold a license for the operation of a casino venue in Massachusetts.

Karen Wells, Head of MassGaming’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, said that what she has in mind is a streamlined suitability review process. According to her such a streamlined process would be more appropriate than a “deep dive” because the state gambling regulator is not “coming in cold the we were back in 2013” and because Penn itself has employees that are supposed to make sure that “regulators are informed of any activity that’s going on, any changes, any potential regulatory infractions… and they’ve done a good job with that.”

Other criteria that regulators discussed this week included “things like compliance with the license conditions” and whether host and surrounding communities were content with the presence of a gambling venue in their area, Mr. Grossman revealed.

Regulators may also consider the license holder’s capital investment plan, its overall financial health, and of its ability to run a successful gambling establishment. Some commissioners suggested that the license renewal process should include a public hearing.

Source: Gaming regulators size up first license renewal,

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