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MGM,Supporters Promote "Yes" Vote On Casino

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WAMC
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MGM Resorts staged a casino referendum campaign kickoff rally in Springfield Massachusetts last night.  It drew a large crowd that heard casino supporters vow to work tirelessly  over the next two months to secure an overwhelmingly affirmative vote.

It had everything one would expect at a political rally -- buttons, banners, signs, and rousing speeches that drew cheers and chants.

A crowd estimated at 300 packed a function room in Springfield Symphony Hall  Wednesday night for the well- orchestrated launch of MGM’s campaign to secure a yes vote on July 16th for the company’s $800 million resort casino project.

Passage of the referendum is a prerequisite for MGM to apply to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for the lone casino license authorized for western Massachusetts.

Springfield resident Steven McCain, wearing a button with the campaign slogan “ Yes For Springfield,”said he  supports the casino because it will mean jobs.

MGM has pledged its project in the south end of downtown Springfield will produce 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.  The company has committed to local and minority hiring quotas.  The development agreement with Springfield calls for annual payments to the city of $24 million.

MGM officials vow to leave nothing to chance and take nothing for granted with the July 16th vote.  Kelley Tucky, Vice President of Public Affairs for MGM, said the referendum campaign will include mass media, a website, door- to- door canvassing, a voter registration drive and a get- out- the -vote push.

Mohegan Sun has said it hopes to hold voter referendum in September for its casino project in Palmer. No timetable has been announced by Hard Rock International for a vote on its plan to build a casino on the Big E Fairgrounds in West Springfield.

MGM has essentially been campaigning for its casino development in Springfield since it was first unveiled last August.  The company spent a reported $10 million as it battled a rival casino operator before securing the backing of Springfield’s mayor and city council.  MGM secured backing from key neighborhood and community groups, the local chamber of commerce, and several labor unions. 

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Credit WAMC
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A pro-casino banner on the front of Springfield Symphony Hall where MGM hosted a casino referendum campaign kickoff

Ivette Cruz, Executive Director of the Springfield Puerto Rican Cultural Center   believes MGM has laid the groundwork to win the July 16th casino vote.

Cruz was introduced at Wednesday’s rally as a key community supporter of the casino and a campaign co-chair.  Other supporters who spoke at the rally included Henry Thomas, long time president of the Springfield chapter of the Urban League, Jeffrey Cuiffreda, president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and Calvin Feliciano, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also addressed the large crowd.

One MGM official characterized opponents to the casino project as “ misguided souls.”

Michael Kogut, chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gaming, said they have their own grassroots campaign underway.

Kogut said the referendum campaign would be a proverbial “David versus Goliath.”

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.