On Springfield

That's Right: More Casino News

With the vote on the city's community agreement with MGM just a few days away, it’s getting hard to keep on top of all the casino-related news. But I’ll give it a shot:

The Springfield Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the MGM plan, citing—you guessed it—job creation, as well as “increased tax revenue, business development and community support.”

“With jobs come opportunity—opportunity for educational and professional advancement, financial stability and financial independence, home ownership, and the list goes on. And with jobs come increased disposable income. All of this for Springfield residents and the region,” Chamber Executive Director Jeffrey Ciuffreda said in a press release.

The Economic Development Council of Western Mass has also endorsed the plan, while the Pioneer Valley Realtor Association released a report showing that property values drop near casinos. Brian Sears, the association’s president, told the Republican that the group isn’t taking a position on the ballot question but wanted to make sure residents had access to impartial information. “The data is the data,” he said.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell of the Springfield Diocese has expressed concerns about the casino in the Catholic Mirror newspaper, writing, “What concerns me is that the lure of this ‘easy’ money has been a distraction from the problems which have arisen in Atlantic City, Reno, Las Vegas, and Connecticut. There have been social problems arising across the country in urban area casinos; all attract their fair share of social ills. Moreover, our state is entering the casino business just as that enterprise is stagnating elsewhere even as close as the Connecticut casinos.”

The Bishop continued: “To those who will face this question I ask that you contemplate and consider all the ramifications. Our right to vote is a great privilege, and like all privileges it comes with the responsibility of being informed and willing to accept the responsibility for potential outcomes.”

Blogger Matt Szafranski of Western Mass Politics & Insight has weighed in against the plan with a measured analysis that calls the reliance on casinos as a city’s savior “lazy economic development” and looks at the fate of casino projects in other parts of the country: “In many states, the promised revenue has come in lower than promised time and time again raising questions about the wisdom of letting gaming in.”

Finally, I have an interview in this week’s Advocate with Michael Kogut and Mark Mullan, the leaders of Citizens Against Casino Gaming, who raised serious concerns about the viability of the MGM project and question whether the promises the company is making as it woos voters will come to fruition. (Neither MGM nor Mayor Domenic Sarno would talk to me for the piece.)

And I have to make a correction: I incorrectly reported in that article that the opposition group did not have to file a campaign-finance report until after the election. The group, in fact, filed its report earlier this week (after my deadline); it showed that (as Kogut had told me in our interview) the group was working with a few thousand dollars—specifically, $2,100 raised from three sources: Kogut, Mullan and the Episcopal Diocese. (Kogut also made a couple thousand in in-kind donations, paying for bumper stickers, lawn signs and printing costs.)

MGM’s spending on its “vote Yes” campaign? A million bucks—and that’s not counting all the money the company has spent on developing its proposal, or what amounts to the free PR work being offered by the Sarno administration, which is aggressively urging voters to support the project.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate