MGM Springfield Casino Moves Forward, Housing Not So Much
The city of Springfield has granted MGM Springfield’s request to postpone its deadline for building 54 units of market-rate apartments, part of its commitment to bring housing to the area surrounding the site of its $950 million casino resort that is due to open in 2018. MGM has said it will spend $40 million to renovate 54 apartments, but so far contract negotiations have slowed it down.
A candidate for the city council, Jesse Lederman, is using the situation as a campaign issue. He announced last week: “The delay and uncertainty of the MGM housing development project is very concerning for voters who supported a host agreement that touted the benefits of such a project. MGM has a responsibility to the residents of Springfield.”
However, City Solicitor Edward Pikula called the project “very complicated,” because it involves three elements: the city, developers and the casino. The city considers the apartment complex a key element to revitalizing the downtown, which involves several historic buildings in Court Square, which dates back to the city’s founding in 1636.
Critics of MGM point out that while its apartment renovation efforts are lagging that the construction of the casino is moving ahead of schedule. Estimated at opening the fall of 2018, the casino could open as early as next May, says MGM.
This would allow MGM to get its casino well established ahead of a satellite casino that Connecticut has authorized to try to defend its market against the Springfield casino.
Coin Operated Arcades
Owners and supporters of adult coin-operated arcades are asking legislators to change the laws so they can legally operate.
Owners of such games, which have routinely been shut down by Massachusetts law enforcement, argue that they ran games of skill and not gambling.
One of the owners of a game arcade that was shut down four years ago by then Attorney General Martha Coakley told lawmakers last week, “I was treated like criminal, threatened with arrest and questioned by state police for more than eight hours,” Rosalie Parisi testified. “This should never have happened to us, or any other adult arcade owners.”
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr supports letting the Parisis reopen their arcade through clarifying the definition of a “coin-operated amusement machines.”
A busload of supporters of the Parisi family asked for the lawmakers’ help.
One former patron testified, “It was a fun place for seniors to get together, socialize and test their motor skills. We loved the games and really miss it.”
Minority Leader Tarr testified that the state’s ambiguously written law created hardships for the Parisis and others like them. “That included the raid of their facilities, the confiscation of their equipment and the extinguishment of their businesses that were very well patronized,” he said.
The Attorney General and the Parisis eventually reached a settlement where the arcade was shut down for three years but the owners admitted to no wrongdoing. Now that the three year is past they would like to reopen. However, the current attorney general, Maura Healey, is adamantly opposed.
She is also committed to continue to crack down on so called “sweepstakes cafes, whose computers like a lot like slot machines, and which make cash payouts.
The Parisis say they were the victims of “selective enforcement,” citing the example of restaurants such as Chuck E. Cheese, which offer such arcade games without being harassed.
Late Night Alcohol
Governor Charlie Baker last week signed an omnibus budget bill that includes a provision that allows the Bay State’s casinos to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., instead of 2 a.m., which was the latest any tavern in the state was able to pour a beer before this. Bars will reopen at 8 a.m.
A key element to the change: the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut close their bars at 2 a.m. Supporters of the change argued that it will make Massachusetts casinos more competitive.
Critics have a different view. Brian Kyes, Chelsea police chief and president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association declared last week: “My concern is people drinking late leaving the casino floor and getting into a motor vehicle. My concern is for public safety.”
Although the law allows a casino to extend the owners of serving alcohol, it doesn’t require it. Carole Brennan, spokesman for the MGM Springfield, said in a statement: “MGM Springfield is evaluating the opportunity for extended alcohol hours provided by the Legislature,” adding, “We would work with the City of Springfield and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to advance a policy that ensures MGM Springfield’s successful operation for both the community and our guests.”
Steve Clark, spokesman for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, told the Boston Herald that restaurants should have the same privilege. “If a casino can serve that late, then restaurants should be able to serve that late,” he said. “If they are going to have that advantage to serve later, then restaurants should be able too.”