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City Council Committee To Hear From Casino Operators

A special committee of the Springfield City Council appointed to weigh casino development proposals is going to hear today for the first time from a casino operator.   Springfield has become the focus of several major gaming companies competing for the lone casino license that will be issued in western Massachusetts. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports...

Several top officials from Ameristar are scheduled to make a presentation to the 15 member Springfield Casino Site Committee at a public meeting Monday evening in Springfield City Hall. Company vice president Mathew Block says Ameristar wants to build a resort casino at a former  industrial site on Springfield’s east side, which the company purchased earlier this year for $16 million

Block says company officials have talk about their plans with top city officials. They’ve also had one neighborhood meeting.  Company officials have spoken in public only in general terms so far about their plans, saying they intend to build a casino  with  thousands of slot machines and more than 100 table games, a 650 room hotel,  along restaurants, bars and retail.

At least three other casino companies have reportedly been scoping out potential sites to develop in downtown Springfield.  A spokesperson for MGM Resorts International said company officials have scheduled an announcement for this Wednesday about their Springfield plans. 

Clyde Barrow, the director of the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass Dartmouth, and an  expert in the casino business said the level of  competition  in Springfield is surprising given that western Massachusetts was seen as the least lucrative casino market.

Outside of Springfield, the only other active casino proposal in western Massachusetts is in the town of Palmer.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is authorized by the state’s new casino law to issue one license for a casino anywhere in the four western most counties. Before  a formal license application can be filed, a casino developer and local officials must negotiate what is known as a host community agreement. That site specific agreement must be approved by voters in a referendum.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has stated in several recent interviews that he intends to bring just one casino proposal before the voters.

The mayor is expected to make an announcement next Monday, August 27th, on the process the city will following for evaluating  the various casino development proposals.

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.
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