On Springfield

Just How Big Was MGM's Victory?

Maybe I’m just a spoilsport—certainly, I’m a certified Fan of the Underdog—but I hear a lot of sense in Michael Kogut’s argument that MGM’s victory at the polls yesterday wasn’t all that resounding a win.

MGM, of course, accomplished what it needed to: having its South End casino proposal approved by the majority of Springfield voters. With that approval in hand, MGM remains in contention for the sole casino license to be awarded in Western Mass. by the state Gaming Commission. (The other two contending projects, in West Springfield and Palmer, are expected to go before voters in those communities this fall.)

The Springfield plan was approved by a margin of 58 to 42 percent—a clear victory, but, I’d argue, hardly the “landslide” Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Springfield, called it in an interview with CBS3.

“If you look at the raw numbers, they shouldn’t be happy now,” Kogut told me when we spoke this morning. Of course, Kogut is partial on this issue; he’s the founder (and a prime funder) of the opposition group Citizens Against Casino Gaming. His group fought a hard fight to get out their message—including their concerns that the proposed casino will never be the economic success many are counting on it to be; that it will, in fact, hurt local businesses; that it will bring a host of social and economic woes to the city—on a couple of thousand dollars, versus the millions MGM spent (and that’s not counting the essentially free promotional work the project received from the Sarno administration, which led the charge for the agreement’s approval).

Given that grave imbalance, Kogut was feeling pretty today about what his group accomplished. “Spending $12 million and only getting 13,000 votes out of 23,000—I don’t think that’s a good margin,” he said of MGM’s showing.

CACG, Kogut added, is building momentum—in recent weeks, for instance, a dedicated group of Hispanic pastors and residents joined the fight—and plans to keep fighting to keep a casino out of Springfield. That means getting their message to the Gaming Commission, which has said it will continue to welcome public input on the competing casino proposals.

The commission will also be taking into account the margin of victory in poll results, Chairman Stephen Crosby told the Republican’s Pete Goonan the day before the Springfield vote. “If there is overwhelming support versus a 2 percent victory support, the more popular support there is, that is clearly a stronger proposal,” he said. “[It] would mean there is greater public support, and in the big picture that is a factor. It’s not going to be as significant as jobs and economic development, or revenue, or the amount of money invested in the product, but it will be a factor we will look at. And all other things being equal, the intensity of the support or the intensity of the opposition in the host community and in surrounding communities is of some significance.”

© 2014 The Valley Advocate