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Crane: Reimbursement money guaranteed

Date: 7/16/2014

LONGMEADOW – While a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the prospect of casino gambling in greater Springfield, Town Manager Stephen Crane said the town is well positioned to adjust to any scenario.

Crane told Reminder Publications that should a referendum vote to repeal the Massachusetts gaming laws succeed, the town would not lose significant money.

He explained that funds from MGM as part of the surrounding community agreement signed by the two sides were not viewed as expendable funds for this fiscal year and therefore not factored into the budget.

“We didn’t include the surrounding community agreement money in our budget, either the sources or the uses, because our budget was printed in the Town Meeting warrant before we had our arbitration hearing,” he said. “Even if it wasn’t, I think we still would have been reluctant knowing there was a chance that the ballot issue could be approved.”

Longmeadow signed a surrounding community agreement with MGM after a panel of three arbitrators found in favor of the town, thereby awarding the community an $850,000 up front payment and $275,000 in annual mitigation payments over 13 years, should ballot measure fail and the proposed South End casino opens.

As part of the gaming legislation, Longmeadow is also expected to receive $143,191 from MGM Springfield to offset costs associated with obtaining legal counsel and consultants as well as arbitration expenses.

Crane explained that the law requires the town pay one third of the arbitration costs and MGM initially overpaid when estimating their two-thirds share of the cost. As a result, after the town receives its funding from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is facilitating the reimbursement process, a balance of $4,090 must be returned to MGM.

Other than that, Crane doesn’t see any reason why the reimbursement funds would be in danger, even if the gaming law were repealed.

“Our surrounding community agreement makes payment immediate. We will have our check in hand. In order to get it back, I think they would have to sue us to get it,” he said. “I have verification that MGM submitted the paperwork to the gaming commission to get us paid. I was concerned about slow-walking it too, but I was copied on an email [on July 9] from MGM to the gaming commission with the signed authorization for the funding.”