If history is any indicator it may be likely that voters in the Massachusetts municipality of New Bedford will vote “Yes” Tuesday on a referendum asking if they want a riverfront casino.
If approved by voters, the New Bedford proposal by KG Urban will be considered for a license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The commission’s other option is to grant a license to Mass Gaming & Entertainment whose $650 million proposal was approved by Brockton voters by just 148 votes (about 1%) on May 12th. The two casinos are competing for the fourth and final license to be issued in the state.
Voters in New Bedford have given the nod to gaming in the past.
In 1993 80 percent of those voting were in favor of a non-binding measure that was placed on the ballot by the New Bedford City Council to get a feel for public opinion on the matter. There was a turnout of just 26% in that election.
In 2001 a similar measure was placed on the ballot that saw 64% approval with a turnout of 35%.
If passed, the casino proposal would move into Phase 2 which includes feasibility studies, environmental assessments, community group input, and a firming up of the project details. While these elements occur the gaming commission would investigate the casino principals, partners, and investors and hold a hearing to determine the suitability of the project.
Were the New Bedford and Brockton proposals both found suitable, commissioners would hold several days of hearings and likely award a license before the end of the year.
The commission has thus far granted 3 of the 4 licenses authorized by voters in a statewide election. A slot parlor with 1250 machines will open at Plainridge Park on Wednesday. Two full scale resorts will follow by 2017; MGM Springfield and Wynn Everett with 125,000 sq ft and 150,000 sq ft of gaming space each, respectively.