Ameristar Meets with Springfield Residents

A town hall style meeting took place in Springfield Tuesday night where residents learned about a proposed casino and hotel in the city. Top officials from a Las Vegas-based company presented their plans for the former Westinghouse manufacturing site. It's one of four casino companies vying for an opportunity to develop in Western Massachusetts.

About 350 residents packed a Catholic Church hall in East Springfield, just a few blocks from the 41-acre parcel off Interstate 291 that Ameristar Casinos has agreed to purchase for $16 million. Ameristar CEO Gordon Kanofsky presented a long list of facts about his vision for a casino resort, including 2,800 permanent jobs.

"The number one selling point is just economic development. We're talking about in excess of half a billion dollars capital investment here. I haven't spent a lot of time in Springfield but it does seem to be a city that can greatly benefit from enhanced economic development."

The audience was attentive and asked questions one at a time. Resident Janice Collins wanted to know how a casino would affect the value of her home.

"We live so close, like across the street from the site. It really makes us nervous. Is it going to become too commercial? Is everybody going to head in the other direction when it comes to looking for a home? You know, that's very important to us."

The event was hosted by the East Springfield Neighborhood Council, which intends to hold future public meetings with Ameristar and has not yet formed any collective opinion on whether a casino should come to Springfield. Legislation signed by the governor last month will allow for 3 casinos in the state, including one in Western Mass.