Massachusetts gaming industry regulators began a final review today of MGM’s proposed casino in Springfield. It is expected to conclude Friday with a decision to award the state’s first resort casino license.
Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners gave marks of “sufficient” to “outstanding” as they reported publicly on their evaluation of MGM’s application for a gaming license to build an $800 million casino in downtown Springfield.
Each of the five commissioners has spent months reviewing key aspects of the MGM proposal including the project’s design, financing, plans to mitigate traffic problems, economic and overall impacts. It appeared MGM did not receive a failing grade in any key area. Shortcomings commissioners identified could be addressed as conditions to the license award.
Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said a major milestone is at hand in the two-and-a-half year effort to launch the gambling industry in Massachusetts.
" The issue before us today is whether to award the category 1 ( resort casino) license in western Mass. to MGM Springfield and if so with what conditions attached"
MGM is the sole applicant for the lone resort casino license authorized in western Massachusetts. But there were competitors earlier in the process.
The gaming commission is scheduled to conclude its public evaluation in Springfield Wednesday. Deliberations are scheduled to take place during the commission’s regular meeting in Boston Thursday. Commissioners will return to Springfield Friday morning to make a formal decision on a license award.
"We are committed to a participatory, transparent and fair process,"said Crosby. "I hope very much that by the end of the week that the participants in the bidding process, the communities involved and the people of Massachusetts will believe we have met that standard."
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said he is cautiously optimistic.
"It affirms the dialog we've had that they ( the commissioners) view our project very favorably and it makes us more comfortable that come Friday we will get the selection."
Any celebrating MGM and Springfield casino supporters do Friday is likely to be somewhat muted. A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the project in the form of an effort to persuade voters to repeal the 2011 state law that authorized Las Vegas-style gambling.
The state’s highest court is weighing a decision on whether the question can go on the November ballot.
Mathis said if the court blocks the vote MGM could break ground and begin construction by the end of summer.
Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said MGM’s casino project would dramatically change Springfield.
"The entertainment options for Springfield and the whole Pioneer Valley will increase significantly. There are projects that are co-mingled ( with the casino). Springfield really is on the way back if we can pull them all off."
MGM said the project will produce 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.