Casino could redevelop Springfield

MGM, proprietor of such upscale resorts as the Bellagio and the Luxor in Las Vegas, is making a run for the Western Massachusetts casino license. The company today will unveil plans for what amounts to a massive redevelopment of three downtown Springfield city blocks. Plans will include gambling facilities, an “entertainment district” featuring restaurants, performance space, and shops, and even apartment units for young professionals working in the new facilities. MGM is one of four companies thought to be vying for the license.

Before any shovels hit the ground, however, the city must resolve some kinks in its proposal process. MGM has not yet made the $400,000 deposit required to submit a proposal, and there has been some dispute in Springfield about the process for bringing proposals to the state’s gaming commission. Springfield’s mayor, Domenic Sarno, has indicated that he will choose which of the casino proposals to put before voters. If voters approve the plan he selected, it will then go to before state’s gaming commission.

An executive for Ameristar, another license contender that purchased a $16 million land parcel off Interstate 291, told the Springfield Republican that he thinks the mayor has an “extreme” amount of power over the process. Ameristar would prefer to see Springfield send multiple casino proposals to the gaming commission.

Sarno, who has resolved to keep the process transparent, is nevertheless meeting privately with each of the proposed casino operators. The mayor told CBS 3 in Springfield he thinks the meetings will show “who are the contenders, and who are the pretenders.”

Those looking for analysis of the process won’t find it in the editorial pages of the Springfield Republican, which has recused itself from editorializing on the casino debate. The paper’s publisher, George Arwady, is in talks with a company looking to purchase land owned by the Republican to bid on the Western Massachusetts license. As this presents a conflict of interest for the paper, it will not pen any editorials on the issue but will continue to provide coverage in its news pages. The turn of events, however, robs the city of an important voice as transparency and balance of power issues creep into a process that could substantially alter Springfield’s future.

                                                                                                                                   –CHRISTINA PRIGNANO


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