Democracy In Action

Tonight I attended the “Post-Negotiation” Forum with the Town of Plainville presented by the Cummings Team. This forum was the final phase of the meetings held before the September 10th election where Plainville residents get to vote on whether or not to allow slot machines to be installed into Plainridge Raceway.  What was supposed to be a rather orderly process was complicated recently when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission declared  OurWay Realty (the former owners of Plainridge Racecourse) unfit to manage the proposed slot machines due to some prior business practices. To review some recent history, the Town of Plainville Board of Selectmen decided to proceed with the election, stating that the owners were disqualified–not the site or the town. The original purpose of the meeting was to explain to the voters the details of the Host Agreement Plainridge had signed with the Town. That was done very thoroughly, but obviously those attending the meeting were very interested in learning about the company that had bought Plainridge. All of the information about the Host Agreement between Plainridge and Plainville can be found on the Town of Plainville website. The Assignment and Assumption of Host Community Agreement can also be found on Plainville’s website. The agreement is between Ourway Realty, LLC, and Springfield Gaming and Redevelopment ,LLC (a company formed by Penn National Gaming). The agreement did not change–it was simply transferred to the new owners.

This week it was announced that Penn National Gaming has taken over Plainridge Racecourse and will apply for the license for the slot machines. Penn National Gaming representatives gave a short presentation about their company and explained that very few changes would be made to the original plans for the Racino. They gave a brief history of the company, which is publicly traded on NASDAQ. Chris McErlean, Vice-President, Racing, explained that the company’s forte is racing/gaming facilities. Eric Schippers, Senior Vice-President, Public Relations, explained that the goal of Penn National Gaming in getting involved in Plainridge was to save the racetrack. He explained that Penn National Gaming has a decentralized management philosophy and believes in local managers involved in the communities where their facilities are located.

The meeting was very positive, and I believe that Penn National Gaming would be a very suitable organization to run Plainridge Raceway. The representatives from Penn National Gaming did remind us that the vote in Plainville was only a part of the process. Even if the voters approve the slot machines, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will decide whether or not to choose the site.

I would like to applaud the Plainville Board of Selectmen for allowing the vote to go forward on September 10 even though it looked as if there might not be anyone to takeover the racetrack. I would also like to applaud the representatives of Penn National Gaming for a very thorough and concise presentation explaining who they are and what their plans are for the future of Plainridge Raceway. Because of the foresight of the Board of Selectmen and the willingness of Penn National Gaming to get involved midway through the process, Plainville voters will have a chance to express their opinion.


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The Twists And Turns Of Bringing Slot Machines To Plainville

On September 10, voters in Plainville, Massachusetts, will go to the polls and vote to determine whether or not to bring approximately 1200 slot machines into Plainridge Raceway. As you drive around Plainville, you see a lot of lawn signs. The majority of the ones I have seen support the slot machines, but I haven’t driven through all parts of the town. On Thursday there will be an information meeting for the voters held at the Wood School in Plainville, and on Sunday there will be a meeting held by the opponents of the slot machines at the Senior Center in Plainville. I plan to attend both meetings.

The Sun Chronicle featured two stories about the slot machines on its website today. The first story, titled “Gaming commission wants to hear from Plainville residents on transfer of slots agreement,” states that the Gaming Commission is holding off a decision on whether or not to approve the sale of Plainridge to Penn National Gaming until it has a chance to hear from the residents of the town. I assume that means that members of the Gaming Commission will be present at Thursday’s meeting.

The second story in the Sun Chronicle is titled, “Penn National has track record on race tracks, gambling venues.” That story deals with the reputation and past performance of the Penn National Gaming company.

That article reports:

This much is known: Penn National is one of the largest gambling concerns in the country. It owns 28 facilities that include casinos, race tracks with slot machines and stand-alone race tracks.

Michael Perpall, president of the Harness Horsemen’s Association of New England, said Penn National has a good reputation among horsemen and he is optimistic it would do a good job at Plainridge.

Clyde Barrows, who studies gambling at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, also said the firm is a well-respected operator in the gaming industry.

“Penn is a publicly-traded company on NASDAQ with a recent share price above $53 and 2012 net income of $211.9 million,” he said.

The opposition group in Plainville is lead by Mary-Ann Greanier. Generally speaking, she has objected to everything said and done by the town and by Plainridge in this process. Her current complaint is that voters do not have enough information on Penn National. It seems to me that their reputation with both horsemen and the gambling industry is an indication that they are reputable people we can do business with. It would be nice if Ms.Greanier would simply admit that she doesn’t want the track and that she will oppose it on any grounds possible.

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