BOSTON — Gambling regulators named MGM Springfield as Massachusetts’ first licensed casino Friday. Here’s a look at the project and what’s next in the drive to open Las Vegas-style casinos in the state.
MGM plans a more than $800 million casino, hotel, entertainment and shopping complex on 14 1/2 acres straddling Springfield’s downtown and South End neighborhood.
The project is billed as an urban-centered casino meant to revive the economically struggling city.
It will restore or reuse all or parts of a number of historic buildings, including a castle-like armory, preserve Main Street’s traditional storefront row and offer new amenities like a public plaza, ice skating rink, cinema and bowling alley.
MGM says the massive project will employ about 2,600 temporary construction workers. Then, when the casino opens, it pledges to hire no less than 3,000 permanent workers – 35 percent of them residents of Springfield, which has one of the highest jobless rates in the state.
The project will also be a windfall for local governments. MGM has agreed to pay Springfield about $15 million upfront and $25 million annually while financial agreements with eight other surrounding communities total about $2 million upfront and $1.5 million annually.
And that’s not all: The casino pledges to buy a minimum of $50 million in goods and services each year from local companies.
MGM has said construction could take just over two years and kick off as soon as this summer. But it depends on the outcome of a state Supreme Court case on whether a referendum to repeal the casino law should be allowed on the November ballot.
And, as a practical matter, the casino still needs state and local permitting approvals just like any other major development project before breaking ground. MGM officials say none of that will happen until the repeal case is decided.
In the meantime, the casino says it will be working on its architectural plans and marketing materials, as well as continuing to host informational meetings for prospective vendors and career fairs for potential workers.
A critical concern for MGM has been delaying millions of dollars in state fees and other assessments triggered by awarding of the license.
Given the uncertainty around the casino law repeal efforts, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission agreed to hold off many of those payments, including an $85 million state licensing fee.
Those fees now come due only if the court rules not to allow the repeal question on the ballot or if it is placed on the ballot and voters defeat it, under Friday’s agreement.
MGM has, in turn, agreed to pay a portion – nearly $5 million – of the assessments every gambling license holder must pay annually to fund the commission’s operations.
What’s Next for Casino Gambling in Massachusetts
With the western region settled, state gambling regulators turn their full attention to the two remaining casino licenses in the eastern and southeastern regions.
This month, the two competing proposals for the eastern license will be aired at public hearings in their respective communities.
The hearing on Mohegan Sun’s more than $1.2 billion plan at the Suffolk Downs horse racing track will be June 24 in Revere while Wynn Resorts’ $1.6 billion plan for a former chemical plant is up on June 25 in Everett.
The race for the southeastern license, meanwhile, remains up in the air.
Foxwoods has floated a casino for Fall River while others have suggested casinos in New Bedford and Bridgewater.
None, however, have taken the crucial steps of reaching an agreement with their host community and then putting that deal before local voters in a referendum.