The city of Springfield Massachusetts, Friday, launched a formal casino selection process and set an early October deadline for casino operators to make their intentions known. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Casino operators that want to build in Springfield have until October 10 to file an initial proposal with the city. After a preliminary review, city officials will determine by November 1st which projects will advance to a more rigorous evaluation that will eventually culminate in a voter referendum on casino gambling in Springfield.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said it was exciting to launch the casino selection competition, which he called an important first step towards what is anticipated to be the largest economic development project in the city’s history.
Two casino companies , MGM Resorts International and Ameristar, have already publically announced plans for projects in Springfield. Penn National Gaming is expected to announce a project shortly. Hard Rock International is a fourth casino operator that has looked at Springfield.
At this stage, Springfield is expected to compete with Palmer, where Mohegan Sun has proposed a casino, for the sole casino license that can be issued in western Massachusetts.
City officials have pledged complete transparency in the selection process and have set up a special website where the public can follow every detail.
City officials had initially planned to begin the casino competition three weeks ago, but put it on hold after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voiced concerns that Springfield was racing ahead of the commission, which is still establishing regulations for licensing casinos.
In a compromise with the gaming commission, the city will slow its process. Kevin Kennedy , the city’s chief development officer said the city expects to hold its casino referendum in June, two months later than originally planned to allow the commission time to pre certify casino license applicants.
In another concession to the gaming commission, the city will require casino operators who pass the preliminary review to pay the state a $400,000 non refundable fee to become an official applicant for a casino license.
The gaming commission had also raised concerns over the city’s casino consultant. The Massachusetts Ethics Commission determined the consultant is not breaking state law by lobbying in other state for casino companies that want to build in Springfield.
Springfield’s city solicitor, Ed Pikula said the ethics commission opinion, issued this week, validates the city’s casino selection process.
Mayor Sarno defended the hiring of Chicago law firm Shefsky and Froelich to be his casino consultant at a cost of $125,000
A political committee, organized to oppose casino gambling in Springfield filed a public records request with city hall Friday seeking a copy of the contract with the casino consultant and invoices showing what’s been paid so far.