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Springfield’s Referendum Vote Does Not Mean a ‘Done Deal’

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — With all the excitement building over Tuesday’s referendum vote in Springfield, it’s actual purpose may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Monday night, the labor council is hosting an open forum on the eve of the casino vote. It’s billed as a chance for both sides to explain their positions and possibly sway votes.

Most people assume a ‘yes’ vote Tuesday means a casino in Springfield is a done deal, but that’s not really the case.

It’s an issue that’s been hashed and rehashed here in western Mass. – building a casino and more importantly, where to put it.

With Tuesday’s vote looming in Springfield, and the signs everywhere – both for and against. You would think the issue is clear cut: to build or not to build, but that’s not really the question.

“The vote is about whether the majority of citizens in Springfield want a casino in Springfield. That’s what the vote is,” says State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno adds, “This is the fourth of five hurdles we’ve had to clear.”

And that hurdle – tomorrow’s vote – is a step, not the destination.

In other words, while a ‘no’ vote would dash any hopes of building a downtown casino, a ‘yes’ vote holds no such guarantee the other way around that the MGM casino would be coming to the city.

It simply gives Springfield officials the green light to present the plan to the state by the end of the year.

“If the vote, obviously if the majority says yes that we want a casino then that will be brought to the commission and then the commission will then decide amongst a pool of casinos for Western Mass.,” Coakley-Rivera notes.

Competing proposals include Hard Rock at the Big E in West Springfield and Mohegan Sun in Palmer. It’s still the state gaming commission that has final say. .

Gaming Commission Chair Stephen Crosby says, “This would be a very big step because it means the city is four square behind the proposal, but then the city will have to bring the proposal to us working with the applicant, flesh out the rest of the proposal, get all the financing in place, describe all the community mitigation efforts, the building itself – the jobs and so forth.”

So no matter a ‘yes’ vote for Tuesday or not, a Springfield casino still isn’t a sure bet, so keep in mind that tomorrow’s vote is an important step, but not the final step.

The deadline to present the state with a casino proposal is the end of this year, on December 31. The state will make its decision about three and a half months later – in early April.

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