Casino Operators Compete For Community Support

Dec 7, 2012

Two high powered casino operators affirmed their commitments this week to pursue projects in Springfield Massachusetts.  Officials in Holyoke, a late entry to the western Massachusetts casino competition, are moving to form committees to review proposals from developers.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief  Paul Tuthill has an update on the fast moving casino story.

An artist's rendering of Penn National Gaming's proposed casino in Springfield

MGM Resorts International and  Penn National Gaming both made overtures this week to build community support in Springfield.  The two casino industry heavyweights are proposing projects in different parts of  the city’s downtown.  Eric Schippers,  senior vice president of public relations for Penn National said the company will shortly release more details about its plans for an $ 810 million dollar resort casino in the north end of downtown Springfield.

Penn National has released an artist’s rendering of  its proposed resort casino and sketched out the project in broad strokes.  MGM has offered a more detailed description of its plans for a  resort casino in the south end of downtown Springfield .

Schippers was in Springfield, Thursday, to announce a donation to the operator of a pre-school that was destroyed in last month’s natural gas explosion in downtown Springfield.  $25,000 was given to Square One  from Penn National, and a charitable foundation associated with Peter Picknelly, the Springfield businessman, who is Penn National’s local partner.

MGM has also made several community donations, and this week,  it offered to help finance improvements to Springfield’s city parks system.  Springfield Parks Director Patrick Sullivan said the five member parks commission voted to enter into negotiations with MGM.

An artist's rendering of MGM Resort's proposed casino in Springfield

Both MGM and Penn National will participate in a casino forum that is being hosted by Springfield city officials  Tuesday night, December 11th in the City Stage theater. Both companies will have 30 minutes to make separate presentations and a question and answer session with the audience will follow.

Ameristar Casinos announced a week ago that it was giving up its pursuit of a gambling license in Massachusetts.  The company, almost a year ago, had purchased a former industrial site on Springfield’s east side for $16 million dollars, and just a few weeks ago staged an elaborate unveiling of plans for $900 million dollar development.

Holyoke, the late entry into the western Massachusetts casino sweepstakes as a result of Mayor Alex Morse’s stunning reversal on the issue, is taking steps to review proposals from developers.  The mayor plans to announce appointments Monday to a community committee.  The Holyoke City Council President Kevin Jourdain is also hoping to establish an ad hoc casino committee.

Casino projects have been proposed in Holyoke at a golf course, and an outdoor concert venue, both along Interstate 91

Mayor Morse this week sent letters to his municipal counterparts in nine cities and towns inviting them to meet next week to discuss the regional impact of a casino development in western Massachusetts. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno wrote back suggesting the meeting would be premature since  developers have not submitted formal plans. Sarno did not rule out  participating in the meeting.

Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik  is going to attend, in person, or send a representative.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has scheduled a series of meetings next week to work on drafting regulations to govern the casino industry.   Casino operators face a January 15th deadline to pay a $400,000 non-refundable license application fee .