SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - How does a community prepare for a half a billion dollar investment to come into their town?That's the question the state Gaming Commission discussed in depth at a public forum in Springfield Wednesday night.
The five hour community conversation culminated in a formal application announcement by Commission Chair Stephen Crosby.
"In the very most formal way, this operation is really getting underway as of right now," said Crosby, unveiling the certification forms casino developers must submit for consideration, along with a four hundred thousand dollar application fee.
It's a hefty gamble as at least four different developers are vying for one Western Mass casino license. MGM, Mohegan Sun, Hard Rock and Ameristar were all represented at the forum Wednesday afternoon. So were local leaders and regular citizens fighting for and against casinos where they live, like proponents and opponents of the Mohegan Sun project in Palmer.
"I just can't see how anyone would want to ruin Palmer," said Iris Cardon, a member of Quabog Valley Against Casinos.
Jennifer Baruffaldi of Citizens for Jobs and Growth in Palmer countered, "wecan maximize those economic benefits and minimize negative impacts."
Questions remain on both sides of the casino equation. Stakeholders in potential casino communities like Springfield's South End want to know more about what a casino would mean for the community. Mohegan Sun's Vice President of Development Paul Brody explained that developers want to know more about the regulations they'll be subject to under the host community agreements.
"I know that all the developers are wondering," explained Brody, "who are the ‘surrounding communities?' How is that going to be defined? What are the issues going to be?"
The Gaming Commission will have the ultimate say in which developer gets the green light.
It's no longer a matter of if, but when a resort casino is coming to Western Massachusetts.
Now that the licensing race is officially on, it's a winner takes all event.