A Long Delay Possible for Casinos in Mass.

By Sarah Birnbaum

Mar. 21, 2012

BOSTON — The panel that will regulate casino gambling in Massachusetts is set: Bruce Stebbins, a business development administrator from Springfield and Jim McHugh, a retired judge from the state appeals court were named as the final picks Tuesday. But it could be a long time before the casinos are actually built.

When the casino bill passed in November 2011, top lawmakers said shovels would be in the ground within 3 to 5 years for casinos, and even sooner for a slots parlor. The newly formed gambling commission says that timetable may be unrealistic. 

Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said there's still a lot of work ahead: 

"I think its doable from a just a real estate and procuring, development," he clarified, "but there’s a lot of bridges to cross prior to that and a lot of study that we need to undertake, discuss amongst ourselves and other stakeholders." 

Casino industry players are making pitches, wooing locals, releasing plans and buying property for potential resort development. 

Meanwhile, the five board members have yet to hold a first formal meeting, set up offices or even leave their old jobs. And chairman Steve Crosby says he wants the board to be methodical.

“Bidders are working within the communities, there’s a lot of energy going on in the target communities both pro and con and there’s an interest in us getting moving and going, I think," he said. "I have said right from the beginning that we will not let pressure to move forward get in the way of doing this thoroughly, right and well.” 

The deadline for putting out a request for applications to the commission falls in October. Crosby guessed that the commission would not start actually reviewing proposals until at least 18 months from now.

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