Casino Fever: And Then There Were Three

Springfield casino resortSpringfield announced earlier this week that three casino resort developers made the city’s deadline for submitting proposals to build a resort here.

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Ameristar, MGM Resorts, and Penn National Gaming all submitted proposals for developing a casino in Springfield, with each selecting different areas of the city for their endeavor. Ameristar purchased land in East Springfield (the former Westinghouse property) for their plan, MGM has showcased a resort in the South End of the city, and Penn National Gaming is proposing a resort in the city’s North End, where the Republican Newspapers and Peter Pan Buslines are currently located. All three plans have an estimated investment cost of over $800 million, according to a Republican story on the casino developers.

Of the three, Ameristar’s plan has by far the largest acreage for laying out a resort, at some 41 acres which the company has already purchased. MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming are each talking about something in the 10-to-14 acre range for their downtown sites. But Ameristar also appears to have the steepest road to travel for local approval, too, in that it sorely lacks what the other two developers already clearly have: local business and political support.

It should be interesting how things unfold in the coming weeks and months. Frankly, it was a bit surprising to see Ameristar hanging there in light of the fact that our local Powers-That-Be appear to be absolutely mesmerized by the vision of a downtown casino. Penn National in particular gets mega-points for having its site located just across the street from the city’s latest heart-throb redevelopment initiative, Union Station.

It will be a much slower process, of course, than Springfield officials were hoping for since the state Gaming Commission in September put the brakes on the city’s original fast-track plans.

A fourth developer, Mohegan Sun, has plans to develop a 152-acre casino resort in Palmer.

In other casino news, the U.S. Department of Interior has rejected a casino proposal in eastern Massachusetts that was signed between the state and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe last month. The feds reportedly balked at the state’s large share of 21.5 percent of the casino’s revenues, saying it violated federal statutes that require casino revenue to primarily benefit tribes. Furthermore, according to a Boston Globe story, federal officials said the proposed agreement between the state and the Mashpee Wampanoags – called a compact – strayed too far from gaming issues “such as the tribe’s hunting and fishing rights and land claims, and sought to give the state regulation over activities not directly related to gambling.”

And so its back to the drawing board for Governor Deval Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, who said they’ll work to renegotiate their agreement.

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