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Gambling Commission Urged To Speed Up Casino Licensing

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is being urged by some to speed up its work to shorten the expected time table for issuing up to three licenses to build resort casinos.  An casino-sitting advisory committee has been created in Springfield, as officials there pursue a casino development.  WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.


      Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners said recently they may pursue a pre-screening process for would-be casino developers, which could shorten the time it’s expected to take build casinos in Massachusetts to bring in the jobs and revenue the backers of the gaming legislation promised.

      Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has been vocal of late about his desire to see the gambling commission move faster.  Sarno, who once opposed a urban casino, now says he’ll  “ fight tooth and nail” to get a casino built in Springfield. The city is struggling with a declining property tax base and  Sarno says the city needs the revenue and jobs that would come with a casino.

      Governor Deval Patrick said he too is anxious for the casino  jobs and revenue, but he defends the gaming commission’s cautious approach.

      Gaming Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, and the other commissioners, have spoken publicly of a time frame that would put the opening of the first resort casino in Massachusetts in 2017.

      The gambling commission, last week, hired an interim executive director who was arrested in 2007 for sexually assaulting a 15 year old boy in Florida. Commissioners said they were comfortable hiring Carl Stanley McGee because Florida prosecutors dropped the charges.  Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby told the Boston Globe the commission did not independently investigate the allegations against McGee, who made an undisclosed payment to settle a civil suit over the incident.

      A casino advisory committee has been formed in Springfield. City Council President James Ferrera said the committee will advise the council on casino sitting issues..The council could conceivably have to issue a special permit , change zoning, or take property by eminent domain to accommodate a casino development.

      Ferrera said the 15 member  committee will be chaired by former Springfield Police Chief Paula Meara. 

 Gaming company, Ameristar of Nevada,  purchased a 41 acre former industrial site in Springfield for $16 million and plans to compete for the one casino license that can be awarded in western Massachusetts. 

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority of Connecticut  has proposed a casino in Palmer. Company officials  are scheduled to provide a status report on their project at a Town Council meeting later this week. 

      Other gaming companies are said to be scouting out potential casino locations in western Massachusetts.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.