Gaming industry regulators in Massachusetts are set to embark on a lengthy public review process that is expected to end with the awarding of the state’s first casino licenses by the end of May. Several criteria will be examined to determine the final winners of the high-stakes competition
Three casino companies submitted final license applications—each consisting of thousands of pages—by the New Year’s Eve deadline to satisfy the requirements of the two-phase application process established by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
MGM Resorts, which proposes an $800 million casino in downtown Springfield, is the lone applicant for the one casino license available in western Massachusetts. Mohegan Sun and Winn Resorts are competing for the east region license.
Gaming commission chairman Stephen Crosby said that after an initial review of the applications for completeness by the commission staff, the documents will be posted for public review on the commission’s website next week.
" We will be inviting public comment at at least two public meetings and inviting public comment through our website all the time."
The three applicants will each give 90- minute public presentations about their projects at a commission meeting in Boston on January 22. That will be followed by a public comment period and public hearings in the host communities.
The gambling commission’s review of the final applications will focus on five areas: an overview of each project, finances, economic development impacts, construction and design, and mitigation for host communities.
" Those applications have a vast array of criteria in them. These three applications are thousand of pages long and contain answers to 200 questions we've asked," said Crosby.
MGM has proposed to make annual payments to Springfield totaling almost $25 million and pay for specific improvements at city parks and other amenities if it is awarded a casino license. MGM is promising to sponsor and promote a certain number of entertainment events annually at existing venues in Springfield. The company said its final license application also detailed an exclusive marketing agreement with Six Flags New England.
MGM has signed agreements to make annual mitigation payments totaling $100,000 each to Agawam, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham. But in its application, MGM did not identify surrounding community agreements with Longmeadow and West Springfield, meaning those communities will have to petition the gaming commission directly for mitigation payments from MGM.
Longmeadow demanded a $1 million upfront payment from MGM that town manager Stephen Crane said was based on a traffic study that claims Longmeadow and West Springfield will be affected most by casino traffic.
"My number one goal and the number one goal of the selectboard is to protect the interests of the residents on things that are within our control. It is in within our control to negotiate a surrounding community agreement. The decision on whether MGM gets a license to open a casino in Springfield is not within our control, it is up to the commission."
The city of Springfield’s chief development officer Kevin Kennedy said MGM has been very responsible in its negotiations with the municipalities that abut Springfield.
"This all about what's good for western Mass. It is not just any one city or town. While we ( Springfield) may be the host I think we are all going to benefit from it in some shape or form."
Although Northampton is 16 miles from Springfield, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz is planning to petition the gaming commission to be designated a surrounding community. Narkewicz believes Northampton should receive mitigation payments because a Springfield casino will have a negative impact on the city’s entertainment and restaurant businesses.