Good, better, best, and “wow” on casinos
If casino developers don’t “wow” the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, they might as well pack up and go home.
The commission released its mammoth 236-page Phase 2 application Tuesday. Developers will be ranked on a “good, better, best” system in four categories: building and site design, economic development, finances, and mitigation. But everything hinges on the “fifth” category, “the wow factor,” according to commission head Stephen Crosby.
The elusive “wow factor” isn’t a specific category. A developer must describe how the facility outpaces the competition in bringing in out-of-state customers or promoting diversity in hiring or utilizing environmentally sound building practices, according to Crosby.
“The wow factor is … what is your real differentiator?” Crosby told The Republican. “What makes this special? How is this different from other ones?”
Bruce Stebbins, a former Springfield city councilor and city business development administrator, drew the straw on economic development. There has been little public discussion of how Stebbins would maintain his objectivity in evaluating western Massachusetts license applicants given that he worked for a potential host community.
How will Stebbins determine what is the best jobs package for the host community and the region, for example? The proposals all promise job creation roughly in the range of 3,000 new positions. The application asks applicants to demonstrate experience in hiring the unemployed and providing them with job opportunities. Springfield, largest city in the region, has a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate: Does the edge go to MGM Resorts International, the Springfield applicant?
Last year, the state ethics commission ruled that Stebbins could vote on issues involving Springfield. If there is a plan to handle the circumstances under which he might recuse himself, it has not been made public.
Supporters of the West Springfield and Palmer casinos proposals would be interested to know what those parameters are, especially now that Stebbins’s current commission assignment dovetails with his previous role with Springfield.
“I do think it makes it a little difficult once you’re from a potential host community, and there may be issues down the line in terms of whether or not he’ll be able to vote on [an] issue,” Paul Burns, a Palmer town council member, told WGGB Springfield last year.
Meanwhile, back in the City of Homes, MGM is pulling out all the stops to assure a “yes” vote on the July 16 referendum in Springfield with a variety of tactics, including “massive rallies,” door-to-door campaigning, and refusing to debate the merits of its proposal with casino opponents.
Mayor Domenic Sarno is so confident that MGM will prevail that he has proposed balancing the city’s fiscal 2014 budget with anticipation of $5 million in payments he expects from the Las Vegas gambling behemoth. Sarno seems to be rolling the dice himself, as the gaming commission will not announce the winner of the western Massachusetts license until next March or April.
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Lawrence’s reconstituted Licensing Board, headed by Mayor William Lantigua’s ex-wife, votes to put a popular nightclub on six months probation after it ejected fire inspectors, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
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The proposed budget for Lynn includes $2.8 million in longevity pay for city workers, the Item reports.
Middleboro officials are planning to send the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe another bill for the annual $250,000 payment they say is owed under the agreement they signed for a proposed casino, bringing the total they say they are owed to $1 million.
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The American Spectator has a rambling rant from Daniel Flynn wondering why the Tsarnaev brothers turned ingrate bombers after being beneficiaries of government largesse and suggesting living in Cambridge historically feeds the ingratitude of its citizens.
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Harvard professor Niall Ferguson decries state bureaucracies in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column.
Wal-Mart chases Amazon’s online shopping empire.
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The Taunton School Committee is considering allowing high school students to use cell phones during school hours, which is currently banned.
The state’s medical marijuana rules are taking shape: No neon signs, no candy-like forms, etc., WBUR reports.
A Danish company that has backed a number of offshore wind farms in Europe has pledged to invest $200 million in Cape Wind if the project secures the rest of its financing by the end of the year. CommonWealth reports that Cape Wind is taking on a Danish flavor overall. Meanwhile, Cape Wind has filed federal permits listing Quonset Point in Rhode Island as the staging area for the project even as redevelopment of the South Terminal in New Bedford is underway partly based on the promise it would be the staging port.
Mashpee Wampanoag officials released an environmental impact report they submitted to the state examining the effects of the tribe’s proposed casino in Taunton.
A Harvard researcher is one of eight astronaut trainees — and one of four women — selected from among 6,000 applicants to the NASA program.
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A gun used in a 2006 shooting death in Brockton has been traced to a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent from Vermont.
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A new Gallup poll shows confidence in newspapers and television continues to ebb, with just 23 percent of Americans saying they trust the traditional media sources with those identifying themselves as conservative or Republican being the most skeptical.