The announcement by casino operator Ameristar that it is dropping out of the competition for a gambling license in Massachusetts has been greeted by disappointment in Springfield. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The announcement late Friday by Ameristar came just five weeks after the company’s CEO Gordy Kanofsky, speaking to 200 invited guests inside a large white tent on a former industrial site, boasted about the plans to build a nearly $1 billion dollar resort casino on the property.
In the press release, Friday, Kanofsky said his company had come to the conclusion that it faced long odds of emerging from a local competition to eventually make its case to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to be awarded the lone casino license up for bid in western Massachusetts.
On Page Boulevard, on Springfield’s east side, in sight of where Ameristar officials planned to build a 150,000 square foot casino, 500 room hotel, restaurants, retail stores, and a spa, people approached Monday said they were disappointed it would not happen in their neighborhood.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he was “ very disappointed” with Ameristar’s decision. But he said he was confident there would be “ robust competition” created by the remaining two casino operators seeking to build in Springfield. MGM Resorts has proposed an $800 million dollar project in the south end of downtown Springfield. Penn National gaming is pursuing an $810 million dollar development in the northern end of downtown.
Ameristar purchased the 41 acre former Westinghouse Electric Company site almost a year ago for $16 million dollars, and set about to win local support for its project, according to Kathleen Brown, president of the East Springfield Neighborhood Council.
Brown said the number one concern about a casino in the neighborhood was traffic. But Ameristar came up with a plan to spend $58 million to build ramps off Interstate 291 to keep casino bound traffic off local streets.
Ameristar has not said what it will do with the property it owns. Ward 2 Springfield City Councilor Michael Fenton, who represents the neighborhood, said the parcel is ripe for a successful development.
Before Ameristar bought the property, there were plans to build a shopping center anchored by a Target store. Those plans were halted by the Great Recession.
The two companies remaining in the casino competition in Springfield, MGM and Penn are to make public presentations about their projects during a city sponsored forum on December 11th at the City Stage Theater.
There are also casino projects in Palmer, and most recently Holyoke.