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Massachusetts Gambling Regulators Approve MGM, Wynn Casino Licenses

MGM Springfield

The introduction of Las Vegas-style gambling to Massachusetts will proceed at a more rapid pace now that a major hurdle has been cleared.  Voters soundly defeated a ballot question to repeal the 2011 casino law.  

   With the cloud of uncertainty caused by the repeal vote lifted, The Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting in Boston Thursday voted unanimously to formally award licenses to build and operate full-scale destination casinos to MGM Resorts for the company’s Springfield project and to Wynn Resorts in greater Boston.  

    MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis accepted the official license award, as did a representative from Wynn Resorts a few minutes later.  Wynn wired the $85 million fee for the license to the state. Mathis said MGM would make the required payment shortly.

       Chairman Steven Crosby said the commission will now prepare for the opening next summer of the state’s first slots parlor, oversee the construction of the two full-scale destination resort casinos , and  perhaps the awarding of a third resort casino license in southeastern Massachusetts. 

  " We felt some sense of restraint and concern. That is now off, and it is time for us to really roll up our sleeves and go to work," said Crosby in his first public comments about the outcome of Tuesday's casino referendum. 

   For MGM, Thursday marked a milestone in the effort begun two-and-a-half years ago when it first announced a project to build an $800 million casino in the South End of downtown Springfield—an area damaged by the June 2011 tornado.

    Plans for the Springfield casino underwent an exhaustive review by the state’s gaming industry regulators after being approved by Springfield voters in a July 2013 referendum.  The project was then effectively subjected to a second voter referendum—this time statewide – when anti-casino activists succeeded in putting the repeal question on Tuesday’s ballot.

        Mayor Domenic Sarno, speaking on Election Night, said there were some anxious moments along the way, but he said he remained optimistic throughout.

    "You have to have fortitude," said Sarno.  " The people of Springfield have fortitude and resiliency. We are moving forward."

     Shortly after the state legalized Las Vegas-style gambling and authorized the licensing of up to three full-scale casinos and one slots machine parlor, Sarno rolled out the red carpet for developers, and three made formal applications. 

       After one of the casino companies dropped out, Sarno picked MGM over a rival proposal.

    A contractor drilled holes to take soil samples at the site of the future Springfield casino Wednesday. A spring 2015 groundbreaking is expected, but  Mike Mathis said they expect to do some initial work before the end of this year.

    " We have a number of historic buildings on site. We will be active in those buildings doing some remediation and testing.  Then in the spring the heavy equipment will be on site and the real ( construction ) work begins."

     Mathis said construction employment is expected to peak roughly 18 months from now and that is when MGM will begin the first waves of hiring for the 3,000 jobs promised at the casino when it opens in 2017.

     " We have over 300 job classifications, so there are opportunities at all levels," said Mathis.

      Penn National Gaming, which received the first casino license in Massachusetts last February to build a slots machine parlor at a harness racetrack in Plainville did not delay construction pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

   The company hopes to open the $225 million racino by June 2015.

       Before Wynn Resorts can build in Everett the company must clean up the site for the future $1.5 billion casino—a former Monsanto chemical plant.   Wynn projects the opening of the casino will be late 2017.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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