Mass. Launching Casino Era With Slots Parlor Opening

Plainridge Park Casino is holding a ribbon cutting Wednesday morning. The first customers will be allowed in at 1 p.m.

From the minute it opened, just around noon on Wednesday, Massachusetts' first legal slots parlour, Plainridge Park Casino, was jammed.

"We've been waiting for a while for this to come," said Jill Toner of Brockton, who was happy to have gambling closer than Rhode Island or Connecticut. "I think it turned out great. The parking was great. Everything was easy to get to here and it was good."

Attached to a harness-racing horse track, Plainridge Park features 1,250 slot machines and virtual table games like roulette and blackjack. It also features a Doug Flutie sports pub where you can see the Heisman Trophy he won back in 1984 as a quarterback at Boston College.

Dan Hayes of Reading, Mass., expects Plainridge will win back many gamblers from Twin River in Rhode Island and Connecticut's Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. "It's local, you know. It's not the drive to Connecticut or Rhode Island. It's a quicker drive down here."

Tim Wilmott, CEO of Penn National, which owns Plainridge, said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony: "Have fun with this place. It's going to be a high energy gaming racing dining and entertainment facility. Enjoy it."

One thing you won't find here: cigarette smoke. Smoking is banned throughout all of Plainridge Park, something several gamblers said they actually find appealing.

Ken LaFazia of North Providence, R.I., said, "I like the idea of not smoking throughout the casino. That's good." Agreed Antonio Cence of Bellingham, Mass.: "I don't want to be near any smoke -- not healthy."

It's one of hundreds of regulations the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Legislature have imposed in hopes of maximizing benefits and minimizing social problems and crime. Stephen Crosby, state Gaming Commission chairman, said, "We wrote a very complicated but very sophisticated and very smart law to make sure that when we do have casinos in Massachusetts that we do that right. We think we're starting off today to do that right."

Plainridge will pay a 49 percent tax on gambling profits -- also know as gamblers' losses. While the commission requires gamblers in aggregate to win back 80 percent of what they wager, the 20 percent they lose is projected to reached $250 million a year and generate over $100 million for state and local governments and another $22.5 million earmarked by legislators to promote horse racing.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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