Officials in Springfield Massachusetts have agreed to changes in a casino selection competition to address concerns about the timetable that were raised last week by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. It will likely push back until next summer a voter referendum on a casino in Springfield.. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Springfield will wait to hold a vote on a casino ballot question until after the state’s gaming industry regulators determine if the casino company, or companies the city has negotiated a development agreement with qualify for a state license. The pre-screening of potential casino operators in Massachusetts is not expected to be completed before June. City officials had originally hoped to have a casino vote in April
The change in plans was announced in a letter sent today from Springfield’s chief economic development officer to the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Stephen Crosby.
Gaming commissioners discussed the new development during a meeting Tuesday in Boston. It came a week after commissioners, at a meeting in Springfield, urged city officials to slow down the local casino selection process
Commissioner Gayle Cameron also praised Springfield City officials.
Still unresolved is the question of a possible conflict of interest involving the city’s casino consultant. The city is employing a Chicago law firm, Shefsky &Frolich to guide the selection process, to help evaluate proposals and advise on the negotiations with casino operators. But the firm is a registered lobbyist in Illinois for MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming, two companies proposing casinos in Springfield. An opinion has been sought from the state ethics commission.
Mayor Domenic Sarno announced a two phase selection process that was originally scheduled to commence on September 5th. The mayor put the competition on hold at the request of the gaming commissioners who voiced concerns about the city’s aggressive timetable.
Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said the city now expects to request initial bids from casino operators later this week.
Springfield expects to receive as many as four proposals to build a resort casino. MGM has unviled plans for a project in the south end of downtown. Ameristar Casinos has purchased a former industrial site in east Springfield.
Mohegan Sun is pursuing a casino project in Palmer. There will be only one casino license issued in western Massachusetts.