Massachusetts Gambles on Casinos for Economic Pay Day

Last week marked the opening of the Plainridge Park Casino, the first of potentially many new slot parlors in the state of Massachusetts. Doors officially opened on Wednesday to an eager herd of gamblers, including several special guests and state gambling regulators. The grand opening took place amongst a haze of doubt as many continue to wonder if the casino will provide the kind of economic benefits the area needs.

State leaders have great expectations for the new $250 million slots parlor. Projected revenue for the casino’s first year of operations is approximately $200 million, with $98 million to go back to the state. The town of Plainville has been promised at least $2.3 million annually plus $1.5 million in property taxes.

Vice President of Penn National Gaming, Eric Schippers, is particularly supportive of the new casino’s potential, saying that past investments have “created growth in businesses like restaurants and hotels.” He continues, “Wherever we’ve gone, it’s been a real shot in the arm for the local economy.”

While some industry experts argue that opening more casinos in a market that may be reaching its saturation point does not make much sense; gambling consultant, Steven Norton, asserts that the industry will grow in Massachusetts as casinos become more local and thereby more convenient. Most Massachusetts residents are accustomed to driving out of state to establishments like Twin Rivers.

The hope is that local residents will no longer feel the need to drive out of state and gamble, thereby giving their money to outside municipalities. It is predicted the influx of gamblers to the area should help stimulate the local economy. In addition, Schippers commented that Penn National has also spread the benefits of gambling operations to local businesses via cross-promotional agreements.

Others are not so certain the effect the casino will have warrants so much optimism. Clyde Barrow, former UMass professor who has studied gambling extensively, notes that most gambling patrons will spend their money on gas and fast food—and not much else. Most of the economic stimulus will come from the 500 or so employees the casino will employ, Barrow predicted.

Undoubtedly there will be an influx of new money to the Plainville area as the casino gets up and running. The casino is expected to attract upwards of 6,000 patrons a day and, if business is good, it could cause a ripple effect of new businesses migrating to the area.