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Springfield Casino Vote Expected In 8 Months

City of Springfield

The mayor of Springfield Massachusetts has outlined a process he intends to follow to evaluate competing proposals from casino operators anxious to build high end gaming, entertainment and hotel complexes in the city.  It’s a process that will lead to a binding voter referendum this Spring.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city will use a two phase selection process to winnow the field of would be developers for what would be the largest single construction project in the city’s history. A project with the potential to transform Springfield for decades.

The first phase of the process, which is to commence next week, will focus on the financial stability and experience of the casino operators.  Companies that pass the initial screening will  have the opportunity, beginning in October to submit detailed site specific plans for their project. They’ll be expected to explain how their projects would help Springfield achieve specific goals  for jobs and additional economic development.  There would also be negotiations on how much revenue the city would derive from the casino operations.

Mayor Sarno  announced the selection process Monday after he held private meetings, separately, with representatives from each of four national gaming companies that are pursuing projects in Springfield.  In a reversal from earlier statements, Sarno, said he would be willing to negotiate a host community agreement with more than one casino operator.

Under the selection process outlined by city officials and a hired casino consultant, the binding voter referendum would take place in 8 months. Before a casino operator can apply for a license from the state a voter approved host community agreement must be in place.

Although it is possible that more than one casino project could be put before Springfield voters, the city’s chief development officer Kevin Kennedy, believes it’s likely that one wil stand above the rest when the selection process is finished.

                Paula Meara the retired police chief, who chairs the city council’s casino site committee said all proposed casino projects should get a public review.

Kathleen Brown, president of  the East Springfield Neighborhood Council, said it is important for people to know how a casino development would impact their neighborhoods.

                Ameristar is proposing a casino in East  Springfield on property the company bought earlier this year. MGM  Resorts International unveiled plans last week for an entertainment complex, featuring a casino, in the south end of downtown Springfield.  An official with Penn National Gaming confirmed Monday the company will propose  a casino project in the north end of downtown.  Hard  Rock International is looking at an unspecified location, also reportedly in the downtown area.

              Outside of  Springfield, Mohegan Sun  has cultivated a casino project in Palmer for several years.    State law allows just one casino license in the west region.

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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