MGM Resorts staged a casino referendum campaign kickoff rally in Springfield Massachusetts last night. It drew a large crowd that heard casino supporters vow to work tirelessly over the next two months to secure an overwhelmingly affirmative vote.
It had everything one would expect at a political rally -- buttons, banners, signs, and rousing speeches that drew cheers and chants.
A crowd estimated at 300 packed a function room in Springfield Symphony Hall Wednesday night for the well- orchestrated launch of MGM’s campaign to secure a yes vote on July 16th for the company’s $800 million resort casino project.
Passage of the referendum is a prerequisite for MGM to apply to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for the lone casino license authorized for western Massachusetts.
Springfield resident Steven McCain, wearing a button with the campaign slogan “ Yes For Springfield,”said he supports the casino because it will mean jobs.
MGM has pledged its project in the south end of downtown Springfield will produce 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs. The company has committed to local and minority hiring quotas. The development agreement with Springfield calls for annual payments to the city of $24 million.
MGM officials vow to leave nothing to chance and take nothing for granted with the July 16th vote. Kelley Tucky, Vice President of Public Affairs for MGM, said the referendum campaign will include mass media, a website, door- to- door canvassing, a voter registration drive and a get- out- the -vote push.
Mohegan Sun has said it hopes to hold voter referendum in September for its casino project in Palmer. No timetable has been announced by Hard Rock International for a vote on its plan to build a casino on the Big E Fairgrounds in West Springfield.
MGM has essentially been campaigning for its casino development in Springfield since it was first unveiled last August. The company spent a reported $10 million as it battled a rival casino operator before securing the backing of Springfield’s mayor and city council. MGM secured backing from key neighborhood and community groups, the local chamber of commerce, and several labor unions.
Ivette Cruz, Executive Director of the Springfield Puerto Rican Cultural Center believes MGM has laid the groundwork to win the July 16th casino vote.
Cruz was introduced at Wednesday’s rally as a key community supporter of the casino and a campaign co-chair. Other supporters who spoke at the rally included Henry Thomas, long time president of the Springfield chapter of the Urban League, Jeffrey Cuiffreda, president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and Calvin Feliciano, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also addressed the large crowd.
One MGM official characterized opponents to the casino project as “ misguided souls.”
Michael Kogut, chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gaming, said they have their own grassroots campaign underway.
Kogut said the referendum campaign would be a proverbial “David versus Goliath.”