Updated with comment from Rep. Gifford

Rep. Gifford files bill to allow license for Wareham Park casino

Sep 5, 2019

Representative Susan Williams Gifford has filed a bill in the House of Representatives that would grant the Gaming Commission the authority to offer a slots-only license for the region, which could allow the Wareham Park project to get a license.

Wareham Park is a casino and horse-racing facility proposed by Notos Group, a Quincy-based developer. The project, which would be located between Glen Charlie Road and Route 25, would also include a new park for the Wareham Gatemen to use during the summer baseball season, restaurants, and some shops. 

Gifford said that the bill does not reflect her personal opinions: “Wareham town officials have expressed an interest in this proposal. One of the many components to this proposal involves legislative action. In order to help facilitate meaningful dialog and allow the opportunity for this project and any others in Region C to be further explored, legislation was required, regardless of my personal opinions. That is why I filed HD4467, An Act relative to the authority of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.”

Currently, the only license available in the state is for a full resort casino, which is not what developers Notos Group have proposed. Notos Group’s Wareham Park would be a slots-only casino, similar to Plainridge Park in Plainville.

If Gifford’s bill passes, the Gaming Commission could choose to offer a slots-only license instead of the resort casino license if the commission agrees that would meet the Massachusetts legislature’s goals in passing the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act, which aimed to boost the economy across the state.

Gifford’s bill would give the Commission the ability to offer a slots-only license for “Region C,” which requires the licensee to pay a $25 million fee, make at least a $125 million investment, and pay 49 percent of gaming revenue in taxes. “Region C” is the last region in the state without a resort casino, and encompasses Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, and Nantucket counties.

If the bill is passed and the Commission decides to offer a slots-only license, there would be a bidding process, allowing multiple applicants to compete for the license.

A full resort casino license, in contrast, requires a minimum licensing fee of $85 million, a capital investment of at least $500 million, and inclusion of a hotel.

If the Gaming Commission was given the authority to offer a smaller license for the region, the Wareham Park Project would then compete against other proposals.

Should it be awarded the license, there would still be several necessary steps for approval at the town level.

Town officials and the developer would need to negotiate a Host Community Agreement, which allows the town to set conditions, charge a community impact fee, and clarify the responsibilities of the town and developer.

Only after the agreement is signed may the town hold a referendum vote, which gives voters a chance to approve or deny the license. The vote would be via ballot, and the measure would need to pass with a majority vote.

Town meeting voters would also weigh in on the project. Because the land would need to be rezoned, two-thirds of voters would need to approve the zoning change.