Baker not planning to attend “historic” casino opening

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 19, 2015…..While acknowledging its historical significance, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he does not plan to attend next month’s opening of the first gaming facility authorized under the 2011 casino law.

Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, which won the sole slot parlor license available under the law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick, plans to open its doors June 24, with state government set to begin reeling in a share of the facility’s revenues.

“I don’t think I’m going to be there for the opening,” Baker said during his monthly “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH radio.

The facility — located on Route 1 roughly 35 miles south of Boston and 18 miles away from Providence, Rhode Island — is expected to have over 1,200 slot machines.

House lawmakers believe the slots parlor will generate $104 million for local aid to cities and towns, including the figure in their fiscal 2016 budget proposal. Baker’s budget included a more conservative estimate of around $84 million.

Baker said the facility will employ 600 people. “It’s a significant change. It’s an historic moment in some respects,” Baker said.

With resort casino licenses awarded to Everett developers in eastern Massachusetts and a Springfield venue in western Massachusetts, Baker said he sees continued “uncertainty” in southeastern Massachusetts.

Developers are eyeing potential casinos in Brockton and New Bedford – Brockton voters recently narrowly signed off on hosting a casino and a vote in New Bedford is scheduled for June 23. Aside from the competition before the Gaming Commission for the commercial license the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe wants to build a casino in Taunton, but it has been unable to obtain federal approvals for its tribal casino.

“I really do believe, and I could be wrong about this, that some of the uncertainty in the southeastern market’s going to slow down the process anyways, separate and apart from whatever the Gaming Commission does,” Baker said.

The governor noted the close vote in Brockton, the presence of the Plainville facility nearby, and the tribe’s plans in Taunton.

“There is a lot of activity down there,” Baker said.

Baker said he does not play Massachusetts Lottery games, but recalled joining friends eight or ten years ago for their first trip to Las Vegas to celebrate someone’s birthday.

“The people-watching was fun,” the governor said. “We went to a bunch of shows. We played a little bit of blackjack . . . Those other games, I just don’t understand how they work at all.”

Baker said he won $700 one night playing blackjack at the Bellagio, recalling leaving phone messages for his former coworkers at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care “saying I’m not coming back to work, I’m just going to gamble full-time, and then I gave it all back the next day.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

Comments are closed.