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Uncertainty to stay after SE Mass. casino deadline

September 30, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — The casino picture in southeastern Massachusetts is expected to remain fuzzy well after the passage of Monday’s deadline for commercial developers to file preliminary applications with state gambling regulators.

Only one firm, KG Urban Enterprises, filed papers along with the required $400,000 application fee before the 5 p.m. deadline. But the lack of other applications won’t necessarily stop other casino proposals from emerging in the region, which until recently had been set aside for the Mashpee Wampanaog tribe under the state’s 2011 gambling law.

Companies that have already applied for gambling facilities elsewhere in the state but wind up unsuccessful in those pursuits could roll the dice again in the southeast without having to reapply to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission or pay additional entry fees. As a result, it could be months before the full competitive landscape in the region is known.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted in April to begin accepting applications from commercial developers in southeastern Massachusetts while continuing to monitor the tribe’s progress in overcoming legal and regulatory hurdles to its proposed casino in Taunton, 35 miles south of Boston.

KG Urban, which filed its Phase I application on Friday, has proposed a resort casino at the site of a former power plant on the New Bedford waterfront.

The company is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against a provision in the casino law that gave first crack in southeastern Massachusetts to a federally recognized tribe. It said in a statement it looked forward to “competing on a level playing field” for a casino license.

While the commission has opened the region to commercial applicants, it also has indicated it might choose not to award a regional license if the Mashpee show progress in the coming months in their pursuit of a casino. The tribe is seeking a federal land-in-trust designation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and is awaiting legislative approval of a revised casino compact with Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

Claremont Cos., a Bridgewater-based real estate firm, chose not to file an application with the commission but remained interested in developing a casino on a 100-acre site in the town, bordered by Interstate 495 and Route 24.

Claremont was gauging interest in partnering with firms that had already applied to the gaming commission. Its president, Elias Patoucheas, said it was “engaged in discussions with several major operators of entertainment resorts, and we anticipate making an announcement in the near future.”

Attorney Paul Hamel, representing South Coast Casino Corp., similarly told New Bedford’s The Standard Times that it was hoping to partner with a gambling company that had been unable to achieve state or local support for a proposal somewhere else in Massachusetts.

The one application filed on Monday was further evidence that the Mashpee were in the best position to develop a casino in southeastern Massachusetts, tribal chairman Cedric Cromwell said.

“The market recognizes that we have sovereign rights as a tribe and our project is ahead of any other development in the state,” Cromwell said.

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