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Casino Decision Inches Closer; Final Public Comments Heard In Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — In just over one month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to announce if the proposed MGM Springfield will become a reality.

Tuesday was the last chance for the public to give their input on the proposed downtown project.

By now, most across the Pioneer Valley have heard MGM’s pitch: millions of dollars in investment, thousands of jobs, downtown revitalization, and more.

After an MGM Springfield presentation Tuesday at the MassMutual Center, President Mike Mathis faced a series of questions from the gaming commission, on topics from workforce commitment to historical buildings to I-91 viaduct construction issues.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby says many were concerns raised at a previous public hearing in West Springfield.

“It’s not new stuff but it’s kind of tweaking it, kind of the final edges,” Crosby said. “We’ve put the pressure on them. We’ve said to them you know, we are going to hold your feet to the fire. I think this is time well spent.”

“They’ve got very specific questions which tells you that they are really drilling down to the details, which is important and we’ve also made minor tweaks along the way,” Mathis said.

If MGM is granted a license, work will begin nearly the same time as the massive I-91 viaduct infrastructure reconstruction project. The two projects would be the largest in the history of western Massachusetts and happening at the same time just feet from each other.

“Alignment is important, coordination, our guys think that we’ve got a good plan in place that we can coordinate schedules so that the work overlaps and doesn’t interfere with our opening, that our construction doesn’t interfere with how long the viaduct needs to be impacted,” Mathis said.

Like at other hearings, many people on both sides of casinos made their voices heard. Tuesday over 100 people originally signed up to speak, including those for, those against, and those looking to repeal the casino legislation altogether.

“We need this for our community so people can own their own homes and you know, Springfield used to be a great place when I moved here 20 years ago, it’s just not the same,” Lakisha Collins of Hospitality and Food Services Union “Unite Here” said.

“I hope to god that you people have the courage to change your mind before you rubber stamp all these licenses for the Commonwealth,” an opponent said to the commission.

An arbitrator must settle surrounding community agreements between MGM and both West Springfield and Longmeadow before a license can be awarded.

“They are both trying to represent their constituents,” Mathis said. “We are trying to represent our shareholders and the city and our project and so we’ll give it to a third party and they’ll figure it out and we’ll accept whatever that is.”

Still, Crosby says MGM’s proposal so far looks good.

“This is a very unusual model,” he said. “It’s really trying to use a multi use development project anchored by a casino as the primary economic development generator in a impoverished or certainly down trodden center urban community, that’s not been done before.”

The Gaming Commission must leave Tuesday’s final public hearing open until the surrounding community agreements are reached in West Springfield and Longmeadow, then come back for a final meeting that is likely to be brief.

A final decision on whether MGM Springfield is granted a gaming license is still expected next month.

“No Casino Springfield” says they remain confident that they will get a ballot question approved for this November that would repeal the casino legislation statewide.

“There’s one hurdle in the state supreme court but we expect to win that, we’ll overturn this, and give western Massachusetts a better future,” Ted Steger said.


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