It’s still not a formality by any stretch of the imagination, but MGM Resorts International has received the kind of news that should be cause for popped champagnes. That’s because Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has chosen MGM Resorts as the preferred developer for a resort casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, the state’s third largest city.
“Quite simply, we’re ecstatic,” MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle told reporters. “We think we have done this probably better than we have done any other development campaign in our company’s history.”
Sarno’s choice of MGM Resorts means that Penn National Gaming is once again left on the outs. It doesn’t help that it once again comes at the expense of MGM, it’s rival who also scored a victory over Penn National Gaming late last year in Maryland. Now, MGM can add Massachusetts to its bragging rights against Penn National.
Despite having no initial plans of negotiating any host-community agreements with MGM and Penn National, Sarno eventually agreed to one, parameters of which include annual payments made by MGM to the city projected at more than $25 million a year, if the casino is built. In addition, the host community agreement also calls for MGM to make several other payments to Springfield, including a $1 million grant to improve Riverfront Park and a $150,000 grant to build a pavilion at the Franconia Golf Course.
Mayor Sarno’s choice of MGM to be granted the one casino license in Western Massachusetts doesn’t necessarily mean that the casino operator will automatically get it. It’s still subject to approval from the Springfield City Council and by city voters with a referendum planned for July 16. Should MGM get the green light, the company is expected to move forward in the development of an $800 million resort casino that sits on 14.5 acres of land in the city’s South End.
MGM’s seeming victory to secure the casino license over Penn National Gaming was met with disappointment from the latter’s camp, but unlike their contentious tussle in Maryland late last year, Penn National was respectful in defeat.
The Springfield proposal offered by Penn National Gaming — in partnership with Peter Pan Bus Lines chairman Peter Picknelly — called for a casino and hotel project on a 13.4-acre parcel in the North End that is now home to a newspaper and a bus terminal. Penn spokesman Eric Schippers said in a statement that while his company is disappointed in the mayor’s decision, it was respected by Penn National who now wish nothing but the best for Springfield and MGM. “As a company well known for its disciplined approach to new development opportunities, we put forth the very best package we felt we could justify from a shareholder return perspective,” he said.