Yesterday the City of New Bedford advanced its continuing effort on casino gaming with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s decision to extend the Southeastern region deadline for accepting applications for a casino gaming license.
This week the City also requested that the Gaming Commission change the Southeastern region criteria for determining costs that count toward a casino’s minimum $500 million investment required by the Expanded Gaming Act. The City took this step to help ensure New Bedford casino developments can be designed with maximum flexibility.
The City’s constructive exchange with KG Urban Enterprises continues. Likewise, the City is continuing the independent outreach to potential casino operators and developers it has conducted over the past several months.
In addition to KG Urban, the City made progress recently in inviting a dialogue with interested operators and developers. While the City is not prepared to detail the nature of the exchanges at this time, these discussions have been productive.
The City has made clear, in the course of these exchanges, the priorities and project elements that would allow the City to fully endorse a gaming proposal. As detailed in a March 20 op-ed in The Standard-Times, the ideal project elements are as follows:
- The project should be located on a site that does not negatively impact the growth of our fishing industry, cargo industry, offshore wind deployment and manufacturing, and should preferably lie outside our protected Designated Port Area while understanding that this consideration need not be an absolute condition.
- The project should not detract from the City’s heritage and brand, and fit well with our cultural landscape. We have built a strong maritime identity and new development must be executed in a way that enforces that positive image of New Bedford. That means, among other things, a project needs to be executed at a scale that does not physically dominate the City’s landscape.
- The project should be easily accessible by highway and not cause concerns for pedestrians or local vehicles.
- Any waterfront project should ideally offer major recreational boating opportunities to promote New Bedford as a destination recreation port, without interfering with current uses in key land-based and marine industries.
- If utilizing an already developed site, it should ideally take advantage of opportunities for the adaptive re-use of historic or existing structures at some level of integration with new facilities.
- A convention space should be included in the development to advance the City’s tourism and marketing goals and present New Bedford to a broader audience beyond gaming.
- The project should ideally complement the City’s existing economic development priorities by including or supporting ‘overflow’ hotel development in the downtown proper to increase population density in the urban core, promoting connections to the downtown and north end, creating high-quality public access to the waterfront, and acting as a catalyst for additional non-gaming investment and job creation.
- The project must supply significant resources that allow the City to invest in its future.
The response from potential operators and developers to this articulation of the City’s specific interests has been very positive, with the City and operators/developers reaching a shared assessment that two locations stand out as having strong potential to achieve the City’s goals, namely
(1) the Hicks-Logan area, and
(2) a large tract of City-owned developable land adjacent to the municipal golf course.
The City considers both locations suitable for a casino gaming development.
It is on this basis that the City today reiterates its open invitation to interested operators and developers to discuss proposals for casino gaming facilities on these preferred locations.
To be clear, the current NSTAR site remains under active consideration. Both the strengths and the challenges of the NSTAR location are much better understood today as result of the City’s site review conducted in partnership with KG Urban, and the City remains committed to an ongoing and constructive exchange with KG Urban.