Gaming Commission Could Decide on Licenses in Late 2014

Timing is everything and timing has been the source of numerous questions about the new Massachusetts Gaming Law and the potential casino at Suffolk Downs over the last few months.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) issued a preliminary timeline for the permitting process to answer all of those questions, and it seems to indicate that shovels might not break the ground until 2015 – or at best – late 2014.

The timeline, which was released within a Question and Answer document intended to help guide host and surrounding communities with the timeframe for completing the process, noted that the first Request for Application (RFA) documents would be released by the MGC this fall – perhaps in October or November.

That pre-qualification process would result in a six-month review that would give birth to another RFA process and another six-month review process. Only after that time would the Commission begin to make decisions about licenses and begin to review community mitigation agreements and referendum votes.

The timeline states that decisions on who gets or does not get a license wouldn’t be made until November 2014 – at the latest.

MGC Chairman Steve Crosby said, “It is our intention to move this process forward as quickly as possible, in order to meet the aspirations of the Legislature and the Governor for economic development and new revenue. But we are equally committed to undertaking this process with a deliberateness that assures that we do it right.”

The news was somewhat surprising to those who are close to the gaming debate, as many believed the review process might last up to one year or less.

Below is a portion of the MGC Q & A document related to the timeline:

Q. What is the timeline for the licensing process?

A. The timeline discussed below is highly tentative, and is published only for the purpose of giving potential host and surrounding communities a general sense of schedule, with which they can assess the urgency of their need to comply with developers’ requests. These schedules are subject to change, and should not be relied on for any formal or legal action. It should also be noted that this schedule applies only to license proposals in regions A and B (in other words, exclusive of region C, Southeastern Massachusetts) for which the Commission is now beginning to develop the application process. For now, the schedule and licensing process for gaming facility applications in region C will be under the control of a compact(s) negotiated between the Governor’s Office and tribal applicant(s) in region C.

As of the writing of this advisory, the Commission has established the following approximate time frame for the licensing process:

•Mid-October 2012 to mid-November 2012: MGC will release Requests for Applications-Phase One (RFA-1). This is the first stage in the application process that will prequalify bidders for their financial, corporate and personal integrity.

•January to May 2013: Bidders will submit their completed RFA-1 application to the Commission.

•April to November 2013: This will be a 3-6 month period for Commission to review completed responses to the RFA-1, and release Request for Applications-Phase Two (RFA-2) to successfully pre-qualified applicants. RFA-2 will be the final site-specific application that all applicants that pass the RFA-1 background check may submit.

•July 2013 to May 2014: This will be a 3-6 month period during which applicants will complete and submit their full site specific license applications, RFA-2. No later than the end of this period, applicants must sign agreements with host and surrounding communities and have host agreements approved by referendum.

•October 2013 to November 2014: This will be a 3-6 month review of RFA-2 applications by the Commission, and final selection of licensees.

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