MA Gaming Commission Holds Public Hearings In Springfield Over Proposed Casinos

The panel overseeing gambling in Massachusetts is holding public hearings today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) to examine, among other things, the selection process to build a resort casino in Springfield. Today’s (Monday) hearing, which the State Gaming Commission is holding at this hour via a simultaneous video-conference feed to Boston, Springfield and Brockton, is focused on the first phase in the licensing process for operating a casino in the Baystate. The commission’s hearing in Springfield tomorrow (Tuesday) will address possible conflict-of-interest issues involving the city’s casino consultant.Commission members are expected to hear from Springfield officials, including Mayor Domenic Sarno, about their hiring of the Chicago law firm Shefsky and Froelich to help vet several competing bids for a resort casino in the city. The firm is a registered lobbyist in Illinois for two casino operators — MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming — both proposing to develop a resort in Springfield. City officials say they knew of the law firm’s relationships with the casino operators, but are defending the hiring of what they claim was the best consultant. They also say their agreement prohibits the firm’s lawyers working for casino operators in Illinois from working in Springfield. But City Council President James Ferrera says the consultant’s relationship with the casino operators was not properly disclosed to the Council. And, he says, he’s concerned that the city’s selection process, drawn up by the consultant, may be at odds with what he describes as a more thorough state process.
“If you look at phase one of the state’s process, which is kind of like a background check and a financial well being of potential developers and operators, that process for the state’s time takes three to four months. On the city side, it’s only going to take thirty days. So, you know, there’s some questioning as to whether or not the city’s process and the state’s process are going to be able to work in conjunction together.”
Tuesday’s public hearing of the Gaming Commission will be at Springfield Technical Community College’s Scibelli Hall beginning at 1pm. Meanwhile, Ferrera says the Springfield City Council will take up a proposal at Monday night’s meeting to decide whether voters city-wide will determine the siting of a casino in the city or if the vote will be limited to residents of the ward where the proposed casino would be built.