BOSTON, Mass (SHNS) – Massachusetts casino regulators settled Thursday on the process they will use this spring as they consider renewing the license for Plainridge Park Casino, the first of the gambling halls authorized under the 2011 expanded gaming law to come up for renewal.
The five-year license for Plainridge expires June 24, 2020, and the Mass. Gaming Commission is granted a lot of latitude in determining what kind of a process it will go through to consider reauthorizing the Plainville slots parlor. The 2011 gaming law requires that the renewal process include a fee of at least $100,000 but not much else.
The process the commission unanimously agreed to Thursday will begin with Plainridge parent company Penn National Gaming submitting a bevy of information — on compliance with various agreements and contracts, on the casino’s internal controls, on operations plans, on revenue and many more topics — to the commission on a rolling basis. Put together, that information will make up the company’s formal renewal application.
“Much of this, of course, we do on an ongoing basis anyway so this is just an opportunity to take a look holistically at their compliance program and make sure that we’re satisfied,” Deputy General Counsel Todd Grossman told the commission.
The commission will also ask Plainridge executives to detail for regulators how the slots parlor has performed compared to the many goals the company set before the facility opened in June 2015, like its expected flow of revenue and what kinds of benefits would flow to the surrounding communities.
“It’s an opportunity to have a look at what the goals were, whether they’re accurate, whether they should be recalibrated, things of that nature,” Grossman said.
The commission decided Thursday to leave the renewal fee at the statutory minimum of $100,000 in hopes that the licensee will reinvest additional money it could have spent on a renewal fee into their property in Massachusetts. In a memo to commissioners, Grossman said that if the commission incurs costs greater than $100,000 in considering the renewal, it will set the fee at that higher amount.
Commission investigators from the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau will also embark on a suitability review of all Plainridge executives and employees considered “qualifiers” by regulators. All licensees and their top executives must be deemed suitable to hold a Massachusetts casino license and are required to maintain their suitability at all times.
The IEB will produce “a memorandum on the overall suitability of licensee and all associated qualifiers (to address regulatory compliance, litigation, and financial stability) including recommendations as to the suitability of each,” Grossman’s memo said.
After a visit to Plainridge Park Casino, the commission expects to hold a public hearing in or around Plainville at which representatives from Penn would make a presentation and field questions from the commissioners. There will also be a designated period for public comment.
If the commission opts to renew the license, it would be extended for five years, to match the term of the initial license. A final decision from the five commissioners must be made “in a public meeting by majority vote,” Grossman wrote in his memo.
A timeline Grossman circulated Thursday contemplates a public hearing sometime in mid-April, two meetings in May for the commission to review renewal matters and a final decision at the commission’s June 4 meeting.
At a previous commission meeting on the topic of renewals, Grossman pointed out that the category 2 or slots parlor license will be up for renewal a couple of times before the commission has to set up a process to renew category 1 or resort casino licenses, which are issued for 15-year terms, and suggested that the category 2 process be adapted and used as a sort of interim review for the resort casinos.
“You will, as was mentioned earlier, review the category 2 license about three times before you review the category 1 once,” he said in October. “So there should be some consideration to migrating some of these elements over to category 1 in some format, even though you won’t be going through a formal renewal process.”