Mass. casino regulators weigh community petitions
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gambling regulators agreed Tuesday to designate Longmeadow as a surrounding community for a proposed $800 million resort casino in Springfield, but they rejected similar petitions from Northampton and Hampden.
The state’s 2011 gambling law makes communities located near casinos eligible for funding — provided by the developer — to mitigate any negative impacts on traffic or other municipal resources.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission agreed to give Longmeadow, which borders Springfield, surrounding community status after hearing about a traffic study that pointed to a likely increase in congestion on Route 5 and other roadways in the town if the casino proposed by MGM Resorts is built.
The company previously rejected Longmeadow’s request for $1 million in up-front compensation from MGM. The two sides now have 30 days to negotiate an agreement or submit to binding arbitration from the commission.
“We are hopeful that the next 30 days will include fact-based and data-driven discussions that will result in a fair agreement,” Michael Mathis, incoming president of MGM Springfield, said in a statement.
In unanimously rejecting Northampton’s petition for surrounding community status, the panel said the city — located about 20 miles from Springfield — would likely benefit from increased tourism if the casino was built, offsetting any negative impacts.
“I don’t see the case made for Northampton’s claim that it will be adversely affected by the operation of the casino,” said James McHugh, one of the five commissioners.
Hampden, a small town near Springfield, also was turned down for surrounding community status.
The commission encourages casino developers to attempt to reach agreements on their own with surrounding community applicants, and MGM has previously done so with Agawam, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Holyoke, Ludlow and Wilbraham. The company also has been in talks with the city of West Springfield.
MGM is the only applicant for the sole resort casino license in western Massachusetts. The commission is expected to decide whether to award the license by May 30.