Tuesday, July 09, 2013 • 6:15 AM Post a Comment

Casino Vote Still On; Opponents Keep Fighting

posted by Maureen Turner

A last-ditch effort by casino opponents to delay next week’s vote on the city’s agreement with MGM has failed.

Citizens Against Casino Gaming had appealed to the state’s Gaming Commission to delay the July 16 vote, arguing that the public process leading up to the vote has been tainted. In a letter to Stephen Crosby, the commission’s chair, CACG Chairman Michael Kogut notes that the commission’s charter calls for a “fair, transparent and participatory process.” Instead, he writes, opponents have been “virtually locked out of the process,” leaving voters with a decidedly one-sided, pro-casino campaign. “Voters are left to make up their minds on an issue—one that will impact them for decades to come—based upon little more than cheerleading from City officials, and on the basis of thousands of advertisements.”

The Gaming Commission was apparently unmoved; as Pete Goonan reports in the Republican, the vote will go ahead as scheduled.

Casino opponents have, indeed, struggled to get their message out in the face of MGM’s major public-relations effort and the pro-casino message being broadcast from City Hall. The casino project has also enjoyed support from numerous neighborhood groups; in recent days, the New North Citizens Council and the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association both endorsed the MGM plan.

This morning, casino opponents hope to draw attention to their case with a press conference by Kevin Noonan, former head of Open Pantry Community Services and a leader of the anti-casino effort in Springfield in the 1990s. Noonan, according to a press release, will make the case “that an urban casino in Springfield is a bad idea for those most vulnerable and at risk.” The event is scheduled for 10:30 at the corner of Main and Bliss streets.

Yesterday, the Council of Churches of Western Mass. held its own press conference announcing its opposition to a casino. “The cost of problem gambling will be enormous,” Archbishop Timothy Paul Baymon, the group’s president, said. “We will see an increase of gamblers in a region that’s already poor, an increase in crime, an increase in the homeless population and a decrease in property values.”

Casino opponents will also hold a rally at Court Square this afternoon at 4:30.

Finally, a bit of self promotion: in this week’s Advocate, I’ll have an interview with Kogut and fellow CACG organizer Mark Mullan about their opposition to the casino.

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