Three experienced casino operators stepped forward ahead of a Thursday night deadline and will compete in Springfield for the chance to build a casino in western Massachusetts. Each is proposing a development project totaling almost $1 billion. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
Ameristar, MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming each filed paperwork and paid a $50,000 application fee to enter the Springfield casino sweepstakes. The three will compete for the right to pursue what Mayor Domenic Sarno has called the largest economic development project in the city’s history.
A fourth company, Hard Rock International, had investigated a casino project in Springfield but did not submit a proposal by Thursday’s deadline. The state’s casino law allocates only one license for a resort casino in western Massachusetts. Outside of Springfield, only one other casino project is being actively pursued in the western region. Mohegan Sun has proposed a casino in Palmer.
A committee consisting of several Springfield city department heads, chaired by the city’s chief development officer, Kevin Kennedy will conduct a preliminary review of the three casino companies and their proposals. Kennedy said that committee will decide by November 1st which of the projects should advance to the next phase of the competition.
Kennedy said the goal is for the mayor and his advisories to complete negotiations with one or more of the casino developers by the end of April and to hold a binding voter referendum in June on a casino development in Springfield .
Just a few hours before the 5pm deadline Thursday , Penn National Gaming unveiled its plans for an $807 million resort casino off Interstate 91 in the north end of downtown Springfield. Its proposal is for a 300,000 square foot Hollywood branded casino, a hotel with up to 500 guest rooms and a spa, and a parking structure for 4000 cars.
Penn vice president Eric Schippers said the plan also includes a housing and retail development near the Connecticut River, relocating the Republican newspapers offices and printing plant to another location downtown and renovating the historic Paramount Theater.
Penn is pursuing its project in partnership with Springfield businessman Peter Picknelly, who is the third generation owner of the Peter Pan Bus Company.
MGM Resorts announced plans last August for an $800 million dollar casino development in the south end of downtown Springfield. The company has released several drawings of its project and has run an ad campaign on TV and billboards. MGM opened a store front office this week to further promote its project with the public.
Ameristar is the only casino operator that owns land in Massachusetts. The company paid $16 million for a 41 acre former industrial site on Springfield’s east side. Ameristar officials have touted the locations easy access from Interstate 291. A company spokesman said further details about its proposal would be released, soon.