Gaming Commission expected to approve MGM, but ballot question looms

Artist's rendering of the proposed MGM Springfield casino, including the now-abandoned plan for a 25-story glass tower on State Street. The elimination of the glass tower is part of what the city council has to vote on.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)- MGM is expected to be designated a casino licensee on Friday, but the question of the casino repeal law looms.

MGM wants to build an 800-million dollar casino resort in Springfield’s South End. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to vote to officially approve MGM’s project at 10:00 Friday morning at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

After receiving marks of ‘very good’ from the commission during this week’s final evaluations, MGM is expected to be designated a licensee, but they wouldn’t be officially awarded that license until a court decision in July.

The casino developer is still waiting on word from the state Supreme Judicial Court on whether casinos can move forward immediately, or if they’ll allow a casino law repeal vote in November.  The decision from the court on that ballot question is expected sometime next month.

The probability of the ballot question is looming, and political consultants and lobbyists on Beacon Hill are preparing for it. A couple years back, polls were 60-40 in favor of a casino. But it’s not a hypothetical process anymore; we know where the sites would be and what the plans would look like. Political analyst Tony Cignoli told 22News the gaming question is more of a 50-50 gamble now.

22News asked Cignoli if Massachusetts voters changed their minds, how would they be liable?

“Does this create a big lawsuit for someone like Steve Winn who is on record saying at the end of the day I might be the only guy who makes money on gambling in Massachusetts. I’m gonna sue for the $160 million. I’ve got in this thing already,” Cignoli said.

It’s been more than two and a half years since the casino law was signed in Massachusetts.

MGM owes millions of dollars in state fees and other payments as a casino operator, but the Gaming Commission agreed to delay those fees until its known whether a November vote will happen.

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