Updated with background information

Zoning changes for casino considered for Fall Town Meeting

Jul 14, 2020

The Planning Board considered a proposed “entertainment and hospitality” district at its Monday night meeting. 

The district was proposed by the Notos Group, the developer of the proposed Wareham Park racetrack, and would encompass the project’s site: a 275-acre parcel of land on Glen Charlie Road in East Wareham, which abuts Route 25.

According to Town Planner Ken Buckland “The purpose of this zoning concept is to promote sustainable economic development through the option of commercial projects that increase the tax base while providing alternatives for recreational activities in town.” 

Buckland added that “Just as with any large project, under this zoning, any project will have to meet the performance standards and guidelines and will need to be reviewed and approved by the land use and environmental boards.” 

The zoning change requires approval by ⅔ of voters at Town Meeting. Without the zoning change, the project would not be allowed to go forward.

Even if approved, however, there are still several hurdles for the developer before construction could begin.

The project also requires a new license to be created by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, as the only one available is for a full-scale casino like Encore Boston Harbor. For that to happen, the State Legislature would need to pass a bill proposed by Rep. Susan Williams-Gifford, which is still stalled in committee.

From there, the Gaming Commission would need to agree that it does want to create the new license. Then, the license would be open for bids from developers, and there is no guarantee that Wareham Park would be awarded the license. 

Owen Eagan, Senior Vice President of Consensus Strategies issued a statement on behalf of the Notos Group, writing that “despite the challenging landscape confronting families, businesses and our state, we remain committed to Wareham and our Wareham Park project. We continue to strongly believe that a mixed-use economic development proposal which includes a thoroughbred racing facility offers tremendous community benefits and opportunities for Wareham and the entire region.” 

He added that “ultimately, the final plan and its essential elements will be determined by state legislative action and, most importantly, by the people of Wareham. We look forward to presenting new concepts and plan ideas when appropriate and to continuing an active and constructive community discussion on the future of Wareham, economic development, tax revenue generation and jobs.”

A public hearing is scheduled by the Planning Board for August 17 to review and discuss the zoning concept. 

Buckland said that he and members of the Planning Board “would love to hear people’s thoughts on the proposed district.”