Penn National Gaming is moving ahead with plans to expand a harness racing track into a slot parlor with dining and entertainment despite a looming vote on whether to repeal the three-year-old Massachusetts casino law.
The Wyomissing, Berks County-based company said it expects to spend more than $100 million and plans to have the shell of the Plainridge Park Casino building completed by November.
"It's a risk, but it's a calculated risk," said Jay Snowden, Penn National's chief operating officer, on a recent visit to the site. "We're confident we'll prevail in November."
In September, the company will begin taking applications for about 500 permanent jobs at the parlor, located near the Rhode Island state line.
Darek Barcikowski, campaign manager for the anti-casino "Repeal the Casino Deal" group, said Penn National is overconfident. He noted that other gambling operators have chosen to wait out the November vote before breaking ground.
Supporters, on the other hand, have said the project will provide voters with a tangible example of the economic benefits of the casino law. Labor unions representing construction workers at the site promise to hammer home that message to voters in the coming weeks and months.