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Springfield Takes Next Step In Casino Competition

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The city of Springfield Massachusetts is moving to the second phase of its casino selection process.  The city’s mayor, meanwhile, has formed an ad hoc committee to advise him on casino decisions.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul  Tuthill reports.

Three high powered casino operators pursuing development rights in Springfield  passed the initial phase one review. Each will now be asked to submit detailed proposals including projections about economic benefits to the city and the state, and estimates of how many jobs the projects would create.

Kevin Kennedy, Chief Development Officer  for the city of Springfield said the next milestone in the casino competition is December 14, when the phase two bids are due.  In the interim each  of the developers will be called on to make public presentations about their proposals.  The companies will also have to pay a $400,000 non-refundable fee to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to become an official applicant for a casino license.

Ameristar Casinos  has proposed a $910 million dollar project on a 40 acre former industrial site on the city’s east side.  MGM Resorts is  pitching an $800 million dollar development in the south end of downtown Springfield. Penn National Gaming has announced an $807 million project  in the  north end of the city’s downtown.

The phase two screenings will determine which of the developers the city will choose to negotiate host  community agreements.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno , Thursday, named a six member advisory committee to assist him with casino decisions.

The panel includes Nancy Dusek-Gomez, a retired Massachusetts Trial Court judge.

Other members of the mayor’s casino advisory committee are  Kathleen Kane, a manager director with Northwestern Mutual Financial, Haskell Kennedy a former civil rights official with the Connecticut Department of Labor, Jill McCarthy-Payne, a criminal justice professor and former prosecutor, and Joanne Morales-Harrison, community re-entry manager for the Hampden County Sherriff’s Department. The sixth member is city development chief Kevin Kennedy.

State law permits just one resort casino license in western Massachusetts. In addition to the three companies competing in Springfield, Mohegan Sun has proposed a casino in Palmer.

Two Springfield developers, who were working with Hard Rock International to build a casino in Springfield have accused the head of the state’s gaming commission of sabotaging  their project.  Anthony Cignoli, a partner in Western Mass Development says gaming commission chairman Stephen Crosby encouraged a top Hard Rock executive to consider eastern Massachusetts

The gaming commission chairman, in an interview  with ABC-40 of Springfield said he did nothing inappropriate.

Published reports say Hard Rock is looking at a site in the Boston area for a casino.   And there is a new entry into the casino sweepstakes in Massachusetts.  The Boston Globe reports Chicago real estate tycoon Neil Bluhm is pursuing a casino development, but has not chosen a site.

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.