On Springfield

CommonWealth Mag Looks at Casino Battle

The new issue of CommonWealth magazine has a must-read article about Springfield’s casino battle—with a particular focus on the competing interests of the Picknelly brothers.

The article, “Springfield Bets on Sibling Rivalry,” by Gabrielle Gurley, ponders the question that lots of people in the city have been pondering: why are Peter and Paul Picknelly backing opposing casino proposals? (Peter, who was interviewed for the article, has put up a reported $400 million for Penn National's plan in the North End; Paul, who declined to be interviewed, is described as a “minority investor” in MGM’s South End project.)

The article considers whether the brothers’ divided efforts are a reflection of sibling rivalry or a shrewd attempt by the family to cover all its bases and looks at the intertwined histories of the family and the Peter Pan bus company that’s an integral part of both Picknelly and Springfield lore.

Gurley also interviews casino opponents and notes just how much the city is counting on casino to ease its problems. “ … Springfield has banked everything on a casino. Unlike nearby Holyoke, where Mayor Alex Morse recently abandoned a brief flirtation with casinos and turned back to his pledge to focus on the city’s innovation and arts economy, Springfield does not have a true Plan B to fall back on if the casinos go somewhere else,” she writes.

Funny enough, one of the sources who spoke cautiously about the prospect that a casino would save the city: former Mayor Mike Albano, who was first one elected in 1995—with the backing of the Picknellys—as a proponent of a city casino. “… Albano has gone from vocal casino booster while in the mayor’s office to skeptic,” Gurley writes. “Laying aside the impressive posters, models, and computer-generated renderings of a new and improved downtown Springfield that the casino operators eagerly display, he wonders what a casino can really do for the city over the long-term. He says gambling has hardly been a magic elixir for Detroit, a city with three casinos that is in such desperate straits it was recently taken over by the state of Michigan. ‘The casinos are struggling, Detroit is struggling,’ Albano says. ‘Springfield is not unlike Detroit in a lot of ways.’”

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