MGM Springfield Springfield, Massachusetts

An artist’s rendering of the proposed MGM Springfield casino complex. (Image: MGM Springfield)

When a city debates whether or not to host a casino, you can feel pretty confident that the same issues will come up time and again. And so it was no surprise that a community meeting on April 1 at the MassMutual Center over the proposed MGM Springfield casino saw many of the same arguments brought up on each side that have been heard for years now. The main difference, it seemed, was the urgency with which they were delivered.

The meeting was the final chance for both supporters and opponents of the proposed Springfield casino to speak in front of members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The commission will soon decide whether or not to grant the Western Massachusetts casino license to MGM Resorts – the one company still in the running in that region.

Arguments Rehashed For and Against

There were plenty of individuals with a variety of opinions who asked to be heard. After the meeting began with an MGM presentation, each of the 350 people who attended the meeting had the opportunity to give a speech of up to five-minutes or less. Many did just that, offering passionate pleas for and against the casino.

Business owners like Carol DeCarlo said they were happy to have MGM in their community, and City Councilor Kateri Walsh said that the casino would help the economy of the entire city.

“The Regional Employment Board of Hampden County believes the awarding of a license to MGM to operate the Springfield casino is a sound economic development and business decision,” said David Cruise, president of the employment board.

Meanwhile, others pointed out the commonly stated negatives of casino gaming, while residents like Karen Ford said that they wouldn’t want one of the new casino jobs MGM says they’re creating.

Concerns over Historic Springfield

But while many of the arguments were well-worn and could come from any community considering a new casino, some unique concerns were heard as well.

Bob McCarroll – a member of the Springfield Preservation Trust – came out to say he was in favor of the casino. However, he also called on the commission to ask MGM to save the façades of many historic properties in the location where the new venue would be built.

“I urge you to grant MGM the license,” McCarroll said. “But in doing so, I ask you to ensure history is kept in the ‘wow.'”

MGM Says Process Made Proposal Stronger

With MGM being the final company still in the running for a license in Western Massachusetts, some questioned whether or not the process had truly been competitive. But MGM officials reminded attendees that things hadn’t always been so simple.

“Anybody who says we have no competition doesn’t remember when we had five companies,” said MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis. He added that the competition had helped improve the MGM proposal, making the current ideas stronger than those in the first draft.

Casinos Statewide Feeling Pressure

As the gaming commission gets closer to awarding licenses, the pressure is increasing on competitors throughout Massachusetts.

That includes the proposed Mohegan Sun casino in Revere, where state officials have ordered the company to conduct a new environmental impact study. Partner Suffolk Downs had hoped that their original study would suffice, but – as in so many other aspects of their proposal – the fact that the new Revere plan is substantially different from the original East Boston casino project has led the state to say it must be reevaluated as a separate project.