Legislators could vote as early as Thursday on bill authorizing three casinos

A gaming expansion bill has been introduced in the Massachusetts Senate, and legislators could vote on it as early as Thursday.

The bill calls for three stand-alone full-fledged casinos and avoids slots at existing racetracks.

The Massachusetts House has passed its own gaming expansion bill that includes two standalone casinos and 750 slots at each of the state’s four racetracks. In regard to the Senate bill, the state is divided into three zones (western, central-eastern and southern), with one license to be awarded in each zone. The minimum capital investment would be $600 million in the central-eastern and southern zones (plus a $75 million license fee), while the western zone would be subject to a $400 million minimum and a $50 million license fee.

Both the House and Senate bills would levy a 25 percent tax on gross gaming revenue. Union Gaming Group, in a note to investors, stated it appears that the Senate bill does not have a carve out for a gaming license to be allocated to one of several Indian tribes currently jockeying for a potential gaming opportunity as had originally been expected. “Rather, it appears that the bill (as currently written) would allow the governor to negotiate separately with the tribes for one of the gaming licenses for up to a one-year period after passage of the bill. Any tribe would still be subject to all provisions of the bill, including the tax rate,” the gaming analyst group noted.