GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 13, 2013

Casino firm looks past Liberty Tree for slots site

By Ethan Forman
Staff Writer

---- — Maryland-based casino developer The Cordish Companies — the same gaming corporation that has also approached Danvers about building a slots parlor at Liberty Tree Mall — is now exploring Boxborough as a site for a slots facility.

But that doesn’t mean it has made any final decision on a location, officials say.

“We have not excluded any options at this juncture,” Carmen Gonzales, director of communications for the Maryland Live! Casino, said in an email, adding that no further information was available.

Boxborough is located along Interstate 495, northwest of Boston and not far from the New Hampshire border.

“They are exploring a few communities in Massachusetts where they are going to be welcome,” said Boxborough Town Administrator Selina Shaw. The town has received no commitment from Cordish for a slots parlor proposal — “no commitments at all,” Shaw said.

Elaine Driscoll, director of communications for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said in an email that “Cordish recently verbally relayed to the commission that Boxborough is a community that the applicant is exploring. We have not received any official confirmation of a definitive site.”

Cordish met with Boxborough selectmen on April 22 to present “a high-level concept they would like to do,” Shaw said. This board listened to the presentation and decided it should hear from the community on whether to explore the development further. Cordish officials also met with the town’s Planning Board to discuss what zoning changes might be needed.

Last Tuesday, Cordish held an informational meeting “to try to answer questions from folks,” Shaw said. She said the company was just taking stock. “They will need to decide is this something we want to pursue.”

Cordish officials have also courted Danvers and proposed the former Sports Authority location at the back of the Liberty Tree Mall for a 24-hour slots parlor with 1,250 slots.

The company operates a casino at a mall in Maryland that attracts 14 million visitors a year, according to Cordish’s website; The Maryland mall is owned by Simon Property Group, which also owns the Liberty Tree Mall.

Cordish officials appear to have taken the process a step further in Boxborough than in Danvers, where town officials have not heard from the casino developer in a couple of months.

“I wish them well,” said Town Manager Wayne Marquis, who said he has not met with Cordish officials since they met individually with selectmen back in February.

Cordish is one of several entities that have applied for, and paid $400,000 for, a gaming license in Massachusetts. The company is one of several vying for the sole slots parlor license available under the state’s gaming act. Applicants during the first phase of the process do not have to immediately name where they plan to site a casino or slots parlor.

Danvers selectmen and residents, particularly those in a condominium development near the mall, have expressed concerns about a slots parlor, citing increased traffic on Route 128, Endicott Street and local streets surrounding the mall.

There was also concern about whether it might tax the Police Department, while a Glocuester couple that runs an existing but small-scale and prizes-only arcade at Liberty Tree Mall hopes the giant slots parlor is located elsewhere.

“Our customers are mostly elderly people just looking to have a good time, and win some prizes,” Sam Parisi of Gloucester, who, with his wife Rosalie, owns the year-old Lucky 7 Arcade at Liberty Tree Mall, said previously. The Parisis also own and operate the Lucky 7 on Rogers Street, just off Tally’s Corner.

“This (Liberty Tree slots casino) would be something else altogether,” he said, suggesting better locations might be at Suffolk Downs or at the sites of greyhound racing tracks in Taunton or Plainfield.

Selectmen met individually or in pairs with a Cordish representative, behind closed doors. Cordish declined an invitation to hold an informational meeting with residents.

Marquis said he received a call about a week and a half ago from a representative of Simon Property Group inquiring if he had heard anything about Cordish’s plans, and that the mall would be supportive of them. He told the mall representative he had not heard anything.

“They were all very straightforward and professional,” Marquis said of Cordish officials, who he said understood that it was important to have community backing for a slots parlor under the gaming act.

“It needed to be that both parties had to be on board, or it wouldn’t go forward,” Marquis said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.