Springfield Group Envisions Capitalizing on Proposed Downtown Casino

With two weeks until Springfield residents vote on MGM’s casino proposal — organizations in and around the city are considering how local businesses might take advantage of a casino. In its proposal to officials, MGM has agreed to pay twenty-five million dollars annually in taxes and other payments to the city and spend at least fifty million dollars each year on local goods and services. Alan Blair — president of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts — says that spending could end up creating more positions than the 3,000 casino jobs MGM has promised.

“This external purchasing by the casino is another opportunity for jobs to be created in small businesses throughout the region. So our real interest is in exploiting in the most positive sense, every opportunity for job creation and business growth as a result of the casino’s presence.”

Blair met with representatives from MGM last week. He says vendors who’d like to do business with the casino — from pastry makers to dry cleaners — would have to meet the company’s eligibility standards. That includes proving they have the staff and capacity to meet the casino’s needs. Separate requirements will be put forth by the state gaming commission. And Blair says minority, veteran and women-owned businesses would be given preference in the bidding process if they meet both sets of requirements. But chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gaming — Michael Kogut — says commitments like those haven’t translated into success for casinos in other cities.

“Whoever is going to buy into that proposal or that promise is severely misguided. Statistics all across the country show that when a casino comes to town it cannibalizes local businesses and local businesses close.”

Blair says the Economic Developmennt Council is urging voters to pass the July 16th referendum, which will allow the state gaming commission to continue reviewing MGM’s application. But he adds that recommendation is not an exclusive endorsement. Mohegan Sun is expected to release its host community agreement with the town of Palmer in two weeks. And Hard Rock Cafe is still negotiating its agreement with West Springfield.