5 groups vying for Massachusetts' final casino license invited to address regulators next week



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BOSTON — The competition for Massachusetts' final casino license, reserved for the state's southeast region, is slowly coming into focus, as state regulators announced on Friday that Mass Gaming & Entertainment had met the application deadline.

The company, an affiliate of Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, joins New York-based KG Urban Enterprises, as potential rivals for the license.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Friday that it also is evaluating application extension requests from Somerset On The Move, Crossroads Massachusetts and the Seafan Trust. All five groups will be invited to address the commission at its next meeting on Feb. 5.

Applicants were to submit by Friday detailed financial information about key players and investors in their projects as well as a $400,000 non-refundable fee to defray costs of the commission's background investigation.

But only three of the five possible applicants — Mass Gaming & Entertainment, KG Urban Enterprises and Crossroads Massachusetts — have paid the required fee, the commission said. Applicants must pass the background check before they can continue to the next phase of the process, which focuses on the project proposal itself.

Rush Street Gaming operates Philadelphia's SugarHouse Casino and Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino. The company's affiliate, Mass Gaming & Entertainment, had previously sought a slot parlor license for a development in Millbury but eventually dropped that plan in the face of local opposition.

Mass Gaming & Entertainment declined to release its application materials or any information about the proposed project Friday. But George Carney, owner of the Brockton Fairgrounds, said the company is eying his facility. He declined to elaborate further.

KG Urban Enterprises, a real estate development firm already has said it wants to build a casino on the New Bedford waterfront.

Kathryn Wheaton, who runs the Brookline-based Seafan Trust Corp., has said her group wants to develop a $4 billion casino called the Sun Moon Resort at a 500-acre location she declined to identify.

Somerset on the Move LLC, is headed by David Hanlon, a former president of Harrah's Atlantic City operations and the Rio hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Somerset town leaders hope the company develops a casino on 100 acres of town-owned land just off Interstate 195. The company did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Crossroads Massachusetts LLC is an investment group that included the late David Nunes, who had been working with Connecticut-based casino operator Foxwoods to bring a resort to Milford before residents rejected the proposal in a 2013 referendum.

The southeast region faces a number of challenges for casino gambling, including a relatively weak economy and competition from area casinos.

Twin River Casino is just over the state line in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and the Mashpee Wampanoags are seeking a federal tribal reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, where they hope to build a resort casino that does not require a state license. The tribe on Friday touted a "key milestone" in its efforts: approval of the project's environmental impact report. The tribe said it's the final step in the state's environmental review process.

Massachusetts already has awarded two resort casino licenses: one to Wynn for a $1.6 billion development in Everett just north of Boston and another to MGM for an $800 million casino in Springfield. Penn National Gaming also holds a slot parlor license for the harness racing facility it's expanding in Plainville, a town in the state's southeast region.

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