Voters will have ultimate say in Western MA casino, public heari - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Voters will have ultimate say in Western MA casino, public hearing in Springfield

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Springfield residents are one step closer to being able to vote on whether a casino will be built in their city.

City councilors weighed the benefits of a city-wide vote for a casino as opposed to a ward specific vote.

As the casino legislation is written right now, only residents living in the ward where a casino would be built would get to vote on its fate.

But councilors Monday night took one more step to change that.

The referendum that would give all voting Springfield residents the chance to decide whether a casino could be built here will now go before the committee of economic development.

City councilors voiced their approval for the vote, which is expected to pass.

The binding vote is expected to take place this spring and it will be the deciding factor on whether or not a casino can even be built in the city of homes.

"A city-wide vote means that every resident in the city of Springfield has the opportunity to weigh in on whether they're for a casino or against a casino," said City Council President, James Ferrera.  

But while city councilors want every Springfield resident to have the option to vote on a casino, not one spoke up during an earlier casino meeting in the city.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission was hoping for the public's opinion Monday afternoon as they held three simultaneous meetings across the state.

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby and Commissioner Bruce Stebbins conducted the meeting in Springfield, while other meetings were held in Brockton and Boston.

In Springfield, only a few spectators were in attendance and only two speakers from Mohegan Sun took to the microphone.

The commission held the meeting so residents and business owners could sound off or ask questions about their proposed first phase in the casino selection process.

That phase includes a $400,000 fee to apply. Interested operators must also provide documentation proving their suitability for a casino gaming license.

Mohegan Sun reps were the only operators interested in a Western Mass license in attendance.

"It's important to be part of the beginning process of the regulations as they're about to be written, to show our face here so that people can see Mohegan is local," said Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, Chairman of the Board for Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Only one casino gaming license is authorized for Western Mass. Interested operators include Penn National Gaming, Hard Rock, MGM Resorts International and Ameristar Casinos, all eyeing proposals in Springfield.

Tuesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will conduct their weekly meeting in Springfield where they will also address concerns with Springfield's own casino process.

Illinois public records show that the city's casino consultant, Shefsky and Froelich, is a registered lobbyist in that state. Among their clients are Penn National Gaming and MGM Resorts International, two of the fours casino operators interested in Springfield.

Concerned about a conflict of interest, the state gaming commission has asked the city to put their casino process on hold.

A representative from Shefsky and Froelich told CBS 3 that they are waiting for an opinion on whether this is a conflict of interest from the Massachusetts Ethics Commission.

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