Local officials are getting behind a bill that would allow the state Gaming Commission to permit table games at Plainridge Park Casino.
Despite the word casino in its title, Plainridge is actually a slots parlor with 1,250 electronic games. It does not have live table games with a dealer, such as poker or blackjack.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, and others have filed legislation that would allow the commission to approve of live table games.
Dooley said the flexibility is needed because of increased competition from Rhode Island.
“They are aggressively going after us,” he said Friday.
Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., is a short distance from Plainridge and it recently opened a smaller casino in Tiverton to compete with Plainridge.
A recent report from a gambling industry publication recommended Plainridge expand.
“If we were Massachusetts lawmakers, we would run, not walk, to the Capital to convince anyone who would listen to give Plainridge Park live table games,” Gaming Industry Weekly stated.
The report also warned of saturation of the gambling market and praised the new resort casino in Everett.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emergency Technologies held a hearing on the matter this past week and several local officials spoke in favor.
They said later they did not know the bill’s chances of being approved, although Dooley said he is “fairly optimistic.”
Plainville Selectman Jeff Johnson said he favored a modest expansion into table games to compete with Rhode Island. He said Plainridge has had only a positive impact on the area since opening in 2015.
The slot machines at Plainridge have pumped money into its harness horse racing business, keeping the track off Route 1 alive.
“Where just a few short years ago we had a handful of people struggling to keep a small horse track open, we now have 500 valuable jobs provided directly to residents of the area — jobs that did not exist before,” Johnson told the committee.
He also said Massachusetts residents used to drive by Plainville on the way to Connecticut and Rhode Island to gamble at casinos there. Now they keep their money in Massachusetts.
“Plainridge Park has had a profound and positive impact on our town and our region,” he said.
Keith Lapointe, president of the newly formed town council in neighboring North Attleboro, also spoke in favor.
He says Plainridge has had a positive economic impact and public safety officials have reported no increase in crime.
Others who attended the hearing to show support for letting Plainridge have table games included state Reps. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, and Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, Plainville Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson, North Attleboro Town Manager Michael Gallagher, Plainville Police Chief James Alfred, and Plainville Fire Chief Justin Alexander.
Penn National Gaming, the owners of Plainridge, did not comment.
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