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Economic development projects on tap following MGM license

Date: 6/18/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Domenic Sarno said that economic development projects other than the MGM casino should be moving forward now that MGM Springfield has been granted a casino license.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously on June 13 to award the Commonwealth’s first casino license to MGM. The decision was met with a standing ovation at the commission’s meeting at the MassMutual Center.

Sarno cautioned though, that if the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules a referendum question that could repeal the legislation that created the possibility for casino gaming could be on the November ballot, he and other casino advocates will be “spending the summer educating the state” about the issue.

Sarno said the possible ballot question would delay the casino and its jobs and revenue by almost a year.

“We need the revenues and we need the jobs. Everywhere I go people want to work. It’s blue-collar jobs. It’s white-collar jobs. They want to work. And this [the casino] brings in 3,000 jobs, “ he said.

The mayor believes that the long-stalled redevelopment of the historic 31 Elm St. building will now be on track. He explained that with the casino supplanting a number of downtown office building within its footprint, there will be a need for office space that complex could supply.

Sarno is also anxious to see the development of more market rate housing in the downtown area

“I want it to move quicker and faster,” he said.

He would like to see the conversion of the former School Department building completed into market rate rental units and noted the city has a “strong developer” who is planning to make improvements with the Morgan Square apartment complex.

Sarno believes there will be a “domino effect” downtown with the MGM decision.

He noted the casino is about third of the $2.48 billion in economic development projects in the city.

Sarno made clear that if the referendum is on the ballot and it fails, the casino project would be delayed by almost a year.

“I’m hopeful their [The Supreme Judicial Court] wisdom will allow us to move forward,” he said.