The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is scheduled to hold a final public hearing in Springfield today on the casino proposed by MGM. It is a last chance for commissioners to gauge public sentiment before completing a lengthy evaluation of the sole resort casino applicant in western Massachusetts.
The gaming regulators are scheduled to hold a public meeting starting at 4 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. According to the meeting notice, this is a continuation of the commission’s April 1st hearing in Springfield. It is intended to give people a chance to comment on the recent arbitration awards to Longmeadow and West Springfield to help the surrounding communities mitigate the casino’s impact on traffic and public safety.
MGM will pay out about $2 million upfront to eight communities that surround Springfield and about $1.5 million annually when the casino opens. Under a host community agreement, Springfield will receive $15 million in upfront payments and almost $25 million annually from MGM.
West Springfield Mayor Ed Sullivan believes his community, where voters turned down a casino proposed by Hard Rock, can benefit from the MGM casino in downtown Springfield.
"We are looking forward to working with them ( MGM) and other businesses that might come into the region as a result of the casino development."
The hearing today will be the third public forum the gaming commission has held in western Massachusetts on the MGM casino project. No votes or decisions will be made today.
Al Cabot of West Springfield has spoken at both previous hearings. He disputes the assertion the MGM casino will make Springfield a tourist destination.
" It is not going to help us here."
The MGM project has been strongly endorsed by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and prominent business and community leaders. Jeff Ciuffreda, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, believes it will be a boon to the region’s economy.
" What we saw as the real gain outside of the casino itself and the jobs it brings and the taxes it pays is that MGM in the host community agreement commits to using local vendors for $50 million in goods and services annually."
Each of the five gaming commissioners has spent months separately evaluating the MGM project on five key criteria: general overview, finance, economic development, building and design, and mitigation.
Commissioner Enrique Zuniga has led a team looking at the project’s finances.
"We are looking at their operations elsewhere, their revenues, ratios. We are doing a market assessment to confirm that what they project in revenues they can meet."
Each commissioner will report the findings of his or her evaluations at a series of public meetings in early June that is expected to culminate with a vote to award a casino license to MGM.
Anti-casino activists have given up trying to persuade the commission not to issue casino licenses. Steve Abdow, an organizer of the “Repeal the Casino Deal” campaign, said the focus is on persuading the state’s voters to shut down the casino industry in Massachusetts by repealing the 2011 gaming law.
"Our priority is to accomplish the next phase of signature gathering. We are trying to put together a structure for our campaign. We are going forward as if we will be on the ballot."
A decision on whether the referendum question to repeal the casino law can appear on the November ballot is pending from the state’s highest court.