Officials mull future after New Bedford casino plan scrapped
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gambling regulators are weighing what to do next now that developers of a proposed New Bedford casino abruptly dropped out of the competition.
The state Gaming Commission met Thursday after New York-based developers KG Urban Enterprises notified them late Wednesday that they were withdrawing their plans for a $650 million Foxwoods-operated casino because of an inability to secure financing.
The five-member panel voted Thursday to accept KG Urban’s withdrawal and said members would discuss next steps at a future meeting. No one from the company spoke at the meeting or appeared to be in attendance.
The surprise development has left just one applicant seeking Massachusetts’ third and final resort casino license, which is reserved for the southeastern part of the state.
Mass Gaming & Entertainment proposes a $650 million resort on the Brockton Fairgrounds.
The company, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, had already won Brockton voters’ approval and cleared a background check by state gambling investigators.
Massachusetts has so far issued resort casino licenses to MGM and Wynn and a slots parlor license to Penn National Gaming.
Commission members said the demise of the New Bedford plan was disappointing but in many ways, unsurprising.
“They’ve been straightforward that they’ve been having difficulty working on their finances,” Chairman Stephen Crosby said of KG Urban. “It’s been an issue all along.”
For now, commission members said they’re looking ahead to the next deadlines in the licensing competition.
Mass Gaming & Entertainment must submit a detailed casino proposal by Sept. 30. The commission is expected to make a final decision on the license sometime in 2016.
“Right now, it’s going forward. Nothing’s been altered about our schedule,” said Commissioner James McHugh. “I don’t see any reason now to change the course we’re on.”
Members declined to say whether they’re in favor of not awarding the regional casino license at all. The commission has consistently said it reserves that right.
Commissioner Bruce Stebbins noted there’s precedent for awarding a casino license with only one viable applicant: western Massachusetts, where MGM is developing an $800 million resort in Springfield.
The Las Vegas company faced a number of competitors, but those rivals were forced to drop out, either because their plans were rejected by local voters or other reasons.
McHugh suggested this time is different.
He said the KG Urban application was the first time an applicant had reached a financial compensation deal with a host city, won a local voter referendum and was granted extra time to sort out their finances — only to withdraw.
“We bent over backward to accommodate them,” McHugh said. “Things happen. I’m sure they hoped to pull it all together, and they couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate. Who knows what happened. But it’s a fact and we have to deal with that fact.”