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Plans Being Made For Casino Referendum


The state law that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts requires voters in a host community to approve the casino development in a referendum.  The law permits cities , such as Springfield, to hold either an at-large  vote or limit it to just the ward where the casino would be built.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.


       Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is adamant the voter referendum on whether there should be a casino built in Springfield will be held city-wide.

       Springfield City Councilors earlier this month, where expected to endorse a city-wide casino vote, but instead sent it to committee for study and a series of public hearings to take place in various neighborhoods.   The first of the public hearings will be this Thursday.

       The council committee that is to study the issue, is chaired by city councilor Bud Williams, who says he personally favors a city wide vote, but is keeping an  open mind.

       At least four casino operators are expected to compete  for a license to build a resort casino  in Springfield.  City officials, who say it would be the largest single economic development project in the city’s history, worth potentially  $1 billion have set an Oct. 10 deadline for initial proposals. After a rigorous review, the mayor by early next year will select one or more projects to move forward.

             When the state law was written, it was expected that a community would partner with a single casino operator and compete against other communities to obtain a state license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  Only one license is allotted for western Massachusetts.  Legislators acknowledge they did not anticipate the scenario that is playing out in Springfield.

       Springfield city solicitor Ed Pikula said it is unclear what might happen if voters were presented with more than one casino project and endorsed both.

       Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy believes the casino referendum could occur in June.

       A Springfield attorney, Michael Kogut, filed legal paperwork with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office to register a political committee, called  “ Citizens Against Casino Gaming”  The committee will work to defeat the casino referendum when it goes before  Springfield voters.

The Council of Churches of  Greater Springfield has also launched an anti-casino effort.

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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