Casino Consultant Predicts "Significant Interest" In Springfield

Jul 18, 2012

Officials in Springfield Massachusetts have signaled they are ready to get serious with potential casino developers.  The city has hired a Chicago based law firm to serve as its gaming consultant.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

             The law firm of Shefsky and Froelich has been tapped to help navigate the complex process of  sitting and building a $500 million resort casino, which would be the largest single construction project in the city’s history.  In making the announcement Tuesday, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno praised the firm’s extensive experience in the gaming field and again  said he is anxious for Springfield to be home to one of the three casinos state law authorizes.

             The state  legislation authorizes one casino license in each of three geographic regions, with one reserved for the four western most counties.  Before applying to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for a license, a developer is required to negotiate a host community agreement which must then be ratified through a binding voter referendum.

             Cezar Froelich, the chairman of Shefsky and Froelich, said his firm has been a consultant on many casino projects including ones in Detroit, and Chicago.  His firm represented the city of Taunton Massachusetts in its negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.  That casino development agreement was recently approved by a voters in Taunton.

             The Nevada based  gaming company , Ameristar, has purchased a former industrial site  in east Springfield for a casino project.  Other developers are reportedly exploring locations in downtown Springfield, but there  have been no public announcements.

The Mohegan Tribal  Gaming Authority has a long standing proposal to build a casino in the town of Palmer.  MGM Resorts dropped plans for a casino in a remote area of the tiny town of Brimfield. A proposal by Hard Rock International for a casino in Holyoke has been rebuffed by the city’s mayor.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribes plans for a $500 million resort casino and theme park in Taunton are moving forward.  The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to vote to approve  the  compact negotiated by the tribe with Governor Deval Patrick.  The legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development recommended it after a hearing earlier this week. 

State Senator Gale Candaras of Wilbraham, the committee co-chair, says the state will get 21.5 % of the gross gambling proceeds from the casino.

The tribe will have to get the US Interior Department to put the proposed casino site into  tribal land in trust.

Kathleen Conley Norbut, a founding member of the Western Massachusetts Casino Task Force is critical of the tribal-state compact.

The compact requires the state to advocate for the tribe in its bid to put the Taunton land into federal trust.