The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted on Friday to award a western Massachusetts casino license to MGM Springfield, as soon as a repeal issue is resolved. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno called the casino one of three essential ingredients to revive the city's "urban core."
Commissioners said the casino license will be awarded immediately if a referendum to repeal does not appear on the ballot in the upcoming November election. The uncertainty over whether a ballot question will appear means that MGM will not be required to pay an $85 million licensing fee right away. The state's high court could block the referendum from appearing on the ballot. As it stands now, a new poll finds flagging support for casinos in the state.
MGM's $800 million proposal calls for a casino, hotel, entertainment, and shopping complex in downtown Springfield. It was the only proposal to survive a two-year competition for the western Massachusetts license.
"Our strategy has [borne] out in a positive fashion," Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said on Friday. "We wanted to be very professional on this, very thorough, and we were very transparent. We wanted to get competition. We felt the more competition, the better. At one time, we had up to six entities looking to get into Springfield."
Sarno sees the casino as a major jobs generator, with potential to grow the economy for supporting businesses. "This is the biggest economic development project in the city of Springfield's history," he said. "The three ingredients for urban centers to come back in America: one, you must have a major economic development project. Two, you must have a transportation hub project. Three, market rate housing, which MGM has in their proposal, and I'm moving on downtown. I'd like to have it move a little quicker, because I'm looking to continue to keep, and bring, young professionals downtown, baby boomers and empty nesters, who want to down size and come back to the urban core. Plus, $25 million coming in in revenue to the city of Springfield allows me to do many more positive things in every nook and cranny, and every neighborhood in the city of Springfield."
This report includes information from The Associated Press, and audio via New England Public Radio.