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Gaming Commission Chair Responds to “The Big Gamble” Investigation

Springfield, Mass (WGGB) — When it comes to casinos, western Massachusetts certainly has options. There’s the rural and all encompassing design like Mohegan Sun, the downtown big box style like Pittsburgh, or inter-urban, spread out city landscape like Cincinnati. The question is which one will work for us.

“We want very compelling, multiple use, multiple resource kind of facilities,” Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said. “That’s why we call them destination resorts. But we want them structured in such a way that they share the benefits.”

But what about the negatives?

Our investigation showed addiction problems often increase when casinos move in to all kinds of neighborhoods. Cities like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have fought back by re-zoning areas so that pawn shops and money lenders don’t fuel already vulnerable gamblers. Cincinnati won’t even allow ATMs within a square mile of their new casino. It’s an idea that Crosby now plans to talk about with local zoning boards

“It’s a really good idea and it’s interesting to have Channel 40 help us do the research here and help learn best practices because we’re looking for best practices,” he said.

Mohegan Sun laid off about 300 employees last month. In Pittsburgh casino revenues were initially lower than anticipated, forcing many to question if there are enough gambling dollars to go around in a shaky economy.

“We’ll be careful. We will study their balance sheets and make sure they are ready for the ups and downs,” Crosby said. “I don’t think the issue with the recession is anything to be concerned about as long as we are prudent at the outset in spending the right amount of money and making sure the reserves are there.”

From Springfield to Palmer, all the casinos have made promises to local communities if they are chosen. Crosby says they will ensure all those promises are kept.

“We will make sure that we have the high degree of penalties. Whether we have claw back rights. Whatever, if people don’t perform,” he said.

Crosby says he’s thrilled with how the fight for the western Massachusetts casino has evolved so far.

“Western Mass has really set the model for how the process is supposed to work. We’ve seen the competitions helping,” he said.

Competition is expected to continue until all casino applications are due January 15th.

There are still many questions that need to be answered, including:

  • What criteria will be used to decide who gets the casino license in addition to state law that’s already there?
  • Will licenses be issued at once or in a certain sequence, for example geographically by region, application dates, etc?
  • How far in design and permit process does a developer have to be in order to get a license?
  • What defines a surrounding community?

To weigh in on the dozens of questions, just click here.


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