A message from Commissioner Bruce Stebbins regarding the Commission’s preparation to review and evaluate the final gaming applications
As the Massachusetts Gaming Commission moves toward completion of the Phase 1 suitability investigations, it is helpful to discuss the preparation work we have undertaken to prepare ourselves to review the Phase 2 applications after local host community referendum votes.
The Governor and Massachusetts legislature crafted a unique “Expanded Gaming Act” because it limited the number of gaming facilities and involved local authorities to determine whether a destination resort casino or a slots parlor project would be welcome in their community. The substance and details of the actual casino projects will emerge in the Phase 2 application, which the commission approved at our meeting of June 13th. The application includes over 200 questions addressing our five key evaluation criteria:
- General Overview – What about this license applicant’s project will make the project unique in the industry, make it a unique destination, reinforce the Massachusetts-brand and positively impact the Commonwealth.
- Finance – Will the project meet the estimated revenue projections, does the proponent have suitable financing to complete the project and will they spend the required minimum investment.
- Economic Development – How does the project maximize a positive impact on area visitor attractions, support small business in the region and create viable and meaningful pathways for employment.
- Building and Site Design – Does the building meet requirements for energy efficiency, have a design that integrates itself into the community and meet permitting requirements.
- Mitigation – How does the proponent solve traffic problems, address problem gambling, minimize its impact on the Lottery and mitigate any problems with the host and surrounding communities.
The application contains requirements written into the law as well as criteria approved by the commission to make sure that these projects are done right, meet the promises provided in the application, have a positive impact on the Massachusetts economy and enhance the state’s revenues. Proponents for a slots parlor have until October 4th to submit their application and casino applicants will have to meet a December 31st deadline.
Evaluating these Phase 2 proposals is a critical task for the commission. Recently, Commissioner McHugh and I decided to review the best practices of other states in reviewing their license applications. We also undertook an additional step of reaching out to others who have had the responsibility of reviewing development projects that total hundreds of millions of dollars. Over the past few months, we met with representatives from public agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), MassDevelopment, MassPort and the Executive Office of Administration & Finance to review how they solicit development proposals, how they are evaluated and by whom and how the decision is made to approve a project. We also spoke with several professional firms to examine how public and private construction projects are completed with the appropriate oversight.
Those meetings gave us great suggestions and insight as to how we could organize our process and utilize professionals and existing public agencies to review the Phase 2 proposals. We are currently soliciting proposals for those professional services and organizing our evaluation teams. Each commissioner will chair an evaluation team that will review a portion of the applications in a timely manner and issue a report of findings on how the applicant succeeded in meeting our criteria. The commission will then use the reports when considering the application as a whole. We have also left ourselves the ability to keep this professional help on board to make sure that the construction projects are completed in the way in which the community expected.
This is an exciting process and the competition we have encouraged from the beginning will provide us with strong proposals. Our evaluation process and expertise will allow the commissioners to review the applications thoughtfully and provide a strong recommendation as to what applicant should be awarded a license. We firmly believe this process will allow us to keep to our timetable of awarding a slots parlor license in December 2013 and the Class A casino licenses for Regions 1 and 2 in April 2014.