SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - The message from the state's gaming commission to the City of Springfield: slow down. The city's eight-month plan to pick a casino developer is outpacing the commission's process.
In the meeting at Springfield Technical Community College, Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby requested that Springfield delay its decision on which proposal or proposals to advance, because they have not determined what their criteria would be for the agreements to be made between communities and casino developers.
The City is planning to select one or more proposals to advance to voters by the spring, yet Commission members said that they were not anticipating even having the agreement criteria decided on until the summer time. The Commission also does not anticipate having all of their background checks done on potential casino developers by then.
City officials, however, say that time is of the essence in the case of Springfield, which is the only community in the state currently considering multiple developers.
Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy told the commission that time is particularly sensitive in Springfield considering that the tornado caused damage to one of the proposed casino sites (the proposed MGM site in the South End), and another firm has already purchased land in town (Ameristar has purchased the former Westinghouse property on Page Boulevard.)
Sarno said that there are four, and potentially as many as six developers interested in building in Springfield, and that as Mayor, it is difficult for him to have to face constituents and explain that the tornado rebuilding process in the South End would have to be delayed as the Commission works out their regulations.
Despite the disagreement, both sides expressed a desire to reach a solution that benefits the city and state. "We have to slow down or have you speed up," Kennedy said.
Meanwhile, another major issue facing the city, the status of consulting firm Shefsky & Froelich, has not yet been resolved. The firm has worked with MGM International, Penn Natioanl and Hard Rock International: all casino developers that have expressed interest in a Springfield casino.
Representatives from Shefsky & Froelich acknowledged during Tuesday's meeting that their firm is registered as a lobbyist for MGM and Penn National, but they said that the firm only represents the companies on routine regulatory matters in Illinois; the scope of their "lobbying" work does not include working to change gaming legislation in that state. All work is handled by one member of the firm, who has not done any of the work in Springfield, and no one on the Springfield project has done work for MGM or Penn National.
The case is now with the state's ethics commission, and Shefsky & Froelich says that they will make the commission's finding public.
The meeting, which began at 1:00 P.M., is streaming live, and continued as of 5:00 P.M.