National Planning Expert on Board for Springfield Casino Committee Meeting

The Springfield City Council is looking to get help from a national expert as it tries to land a casino. Donald Dissinger — an urban planning expert from Philadelphia — joined the Springfield Casino Sitting Committee via satellite last night to discuss casino-citing strategies.

Dissinger has thirty-five years of experience developing casinos and gambling venues across the country. At the meeting he showcased two of his projects — the Foxwoods Casino in Philadelphia and the Hialeah Park Race Track in Miami. He pointed to those examples to try to assure the crowd of skeptical city residents that with diligent planning a casino could act as what he called a “community anchor.”

“When you build a destination things grow out from the center. And things that support it begin to grow around it and you have to think about that in advance so that can happen.”

Dissginer suggested surrounding Casino grounds with city parks or developing an urban entertainment district before a potential casino opened. He says those strategies worked to strengthen — if not immediately — the urban economies of his Foxwoods and Hialeah Park destinations.

But Springfield resident Joe Jervasini says he was not convinced by Dissinger’s examples.

“Casinos cannibalize surrounding businesses. In Atlantic city by 1987 there was a 40% decrease in locally owned restaurants.”

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will hold a public forum at Western New England University in Springfield on August 2nd.