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July 25, 2013

Casino builder Penn National opens office in Tewksbury

TEWKSBURY — A gaming company looking to bring a $200 million slots-only casino to the Andover town line has opened a nine-to-five office on Main Street in Tewksbury as the dates for two key votes have been set.

Penn National Gaming has its sights set on Ames Pond Drive, an area off Route 133 in Tewksbury on the Andover border, for its proposed Hollywood Casino Tewksbury, which would operate 1,250 slot machines, restaurants, hotel accommodations and more if approved.

The project is slated for two votes in Tewksbury: Aug. 20 to rezone the 30-acre parcel and Sept. 21 for a townwide ballot vote to allow or reject gaming in the community.

Meanwhile, Penn has opened an office at 1120 Main St., just down the road from Tewksbury Town Hall, according to a release from the company. The office will be staffed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We want the citizens of Tewksbury to have all the information necessary to make an informed decision about our project, and having an office on Main Street is a vital part of that effort,” Jeff Morris, director of public affairs for Penn, said. “Our community outreach efforts start with the opening of this office, and will expand from here.”

Where Andover and other Merrimack Valley communities play into the project remains to be seen. Any communities in the area can be named a “surrounding community” in the project, according to Elaine Driscoll, director of communications for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Being a surrounding community to the project essentially brings the town to the table as part of the project’s discussion, Driscoll said.

If Andover or other neighboring towns aren’t named surrounding communities either by Penn or through negotiations with Penn, they can file a petition within 10 days of the project’s application being submitted to the state, according to Driscoll.

Penn National Gaming has until Oct. 4 to get community support and apply for the state’s only slots-only license. Four other companies are already competing for the shot at setting up a facility in the state, according to Driscoll.

Penn must also pass a suitability check from the state Gaming Commission, the hearing for which is expected to occur in mid-August, Driscoll said.

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