Exasperated members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission gave developers of a proposed New Bedford casino an ultimatum: Nail down your financing by June 9, or your bid is dead.
Commissioners ripped into KG Urban Enterprises for repeatedly seeking deadline extensions and then failing to finalize its bid for the southeastern Massachusetts casino license - most recently, sending over draft "term sheets" with an investor that still have not been signed.
"I was very explicit: give us the qualifiers and let's get started," commission chairman Stephen Crosby said.
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Commissioner Enrique Zuniga told KG: "You've had three years to finalize a financing."
Commissioner James McHugh lamented: "This has the potential to go on forever."
Developer KG Urban Enterprises has been trying for months to nail down hundreds of millions of dollars of backing from Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. for its plan to turn a former NStar power plant on the harborfront into a casino. After a unanimous vote of the five gaming commissioners, KG now must nail down its GLPI funding by 5 p.m. on June 9, or the commission will declare its application dead.
KG managing director Andrew Stern said: "There's no sticking point. There are no sticking points, and no holdup. Making a deal at this level takes a little time."
New Bedford would face casino competition from the not-far-away Plainridge Park Casino, opening June 24, and potentially a gambling hall in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and a Mashpee Wampanoag casino in Taunton if they get federal approval to convert an industrial park into tribal land. That profusion of potential competition may explain investor skittishness. If the New Bedford bid fizzles, that leaves only George Carney's Brockton Fairgrounds plan seeking the one southeastern Massachusetts gaming license.
"It would be good if we could have more than one. If we only have won, we'll deal with one," Crosby said.
But, Crosby admitted, having just one bidder doesn't give the state much leverage.
"If there's been anything we've said repeatedly for the last three years, it's that competition is good, and we think the best way to get the best deal for the commonwealth in terms of revenue, jobs, and economic development and so forth is to have a competitive situation."
Meanwhile Thursday, Wynn Resorts executives assured the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that despite a wave of lawsuits, they are full speed ahead on seeking environmental reviews, 33 state and local permits, and starting cleanup of their Everett toxic waste site this fall. But one question they would not stop to answer from the media: Are you still promising to have the $1.6 billion casino resort open by 2018, as they've vowed for months?
Hours after walking away from reporters trying to ask him questions after his testimony before the Gaming Commission, Wynn Everett CEO Robert DeSalvio issued a statement through a spokesman that evaded the 2018 opening question. The statement atttributed to DeSalvio read: “As we demonstrated to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission today, the Wynn Everett Resort is moving full-speed ahead. We are far along in our MEPA and remediation permitting process and are closer to delivering the environmental cleanup, initial improvements to Sullivan Square and thousands of jobs that our $1.6 billion Wynn resort will generate for everyone in the Commonwealth. We anticipate more advancements in the coming months.”
Mayors of Boston, Revere, and Somerville have all sued to kill the Wynn casino. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has even sued to have the whole eastern Massachusetts casino selection done over, with five new gaming commissioners.
"Everybody has the right to complain, and everybody has a right to sue," Crosby said. "We have won every lawsuit that's been filed against us so far and we are hopeful and I would say confident that that will happen here as well."
Meanwhile, Suffolk Downs, which lost out to Wynn in its quest for a casino license, plans three days of horse racing this summer, one each in July, August, and September. Horsemen say that's way too little to be worth their time. Crosby said the commission could tell Suffolk: go for more dates, or you get none at all.
"We probably could say, they're asking for 3, we could set a minimum. The Legislature has set the minimum at various times, and at other times, the Legislature has delegated to us, prospectively, to set the minimum," Crosby said. "So, sure, we could negotiate the minimum, if the party were willing."
With videographer Mike Bellwin