Casino Forum Draws Crowd in Springfield

The commission that oversees gambling in Massachusetts held its first public forum in the western part of the state Wednesday. The event, which drew about a hundred people, was held in Springfield. It was intended to inform municipal leaders and the public on the potential impacts a casino could have on the area. And It provided community members a chance to voice their opinions on where – or even whether — a casino should be located in the region. New England Public Radio’s Adam Frenier reports.

Outside Rivers Hall Auditorium on the Western New England University Campus, about two dozen members of the Springfield Chinese Christian Church, held signs protesting against a casino in Springfield. The Church is only a few miles from any one of three casino sites where developers have shown interest. Pastor Phil Chang says he is concerned about the possible impact of a gambling facility on the church’s neighborhood.

“We have a school right here, we have a church right here. We have a nice neighborhood here. We don’t want this kind of business, that exploitation, all this money and move into this community.”

But there were plenty of supporters for a Springfield casino at the commission meeting. Judith Matt is the President of the Spirit of Springfield, a private civic organization. She says a downtown casino could give the city a much needed boost and create more jobs.

“We’ve been looking at this for years. Years ago they wanted to try other opportunities to bring business and work into the city. It didn’t happen. This is a chance that we have and I believe many of these people who are interested are coming here are going to do it right. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The forum featured panel discussions by experts on mitigating the various effects a casino can have on a community, from traffic to crime, to support for municipal budgets. Panels considered Tourism opportunities, and workforce development. The Commission has announced it will start accepting applications for casinos in three geographic regions of the state and a slot machine parlor this week. For New England Public Radio, I’m Adam Frenier.