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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It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Sings

It’s not over until the fat lady sings. Well, she is about to enter the green room to warm up. Yesterday I reported on the decision of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to rule out Plainridge Racecourse as a suitable applicant for a slot machine license (rightwinggranny.com). I support the slot machines for a variety of reasons and was very disheartened to read that the Gaming Commission had disqualified Plainridge. However, after reading about the reasons for the decision, I could totally understand why that decision was made.

If the decision stands, the Town of Plainville is the loser in this deal. Plainridge has operated in the town for fifteen years. Plainridge Racecourse is the only harness racing track in operation in Massachusetts. It has not made a profit during its time in Plainville, but has continually been a good neighbor to the town. It has paid taxes to the town and provided employment for a number of people in the town. There is a serious question as to whether or not Plainridge Racecourse will stay in business without the slot machine license. If Plainridge closes, is there a future for harness racing in Massachusetts? What happens to all of the beautiful horse farms in Plainville? So where are we now?

Domenic Longobardi was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time today so I could ask him some questions about the past and future of Plainridge. He expressed disappointment that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission did not try to work with Plainridge to resolve the issue of misdeeds under previous management. He also pointed out that the people involved in those misdeeds are no longer in charge. He reminded me that from the time Plainridge was built the idea was to eventually bring in other avenues of gambling in order to keep the track afloat.

I asked Mr. Longobardi if the 9% of slot machine money that will go to support harness racing would be enough to keep Plainridge alive. He explained that the 9% of slot machine money would go to the harness racing purses–not to operating expenses at the tracks.

Mr. Longobardi mentioned the investment Plainridge has made in order to move forward with the slot machine permit. Plainridge has paid application fees to the Commonwealth of Massachuestts, paid consulting fees for the Town of Plainville, and invested money in a large parking garage to accommodate additional people visiting the facility.

Mr. Longobardi pointed out that although Ourway Realty is disqualified from obtaining the license to operate slot machines at Plainridge Racecourse, the location itself is not disqualified.

A reliable source told me this afternoon that there is another management organization planning to take over Plainridge and resubmit the application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. That organization is experienced in the gaming industry and would actually be a better candidate to run Plainridge.

The bottom line is simple. It’s not over yet, and smart businessmen are working to find a solution that would meet the requirements of the Gaming Commission and the needs of the people of Plainville. I sincerely hope that something can be worked out.

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