BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — The Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners is responsible for issuing three casino licenses in the state, but tell that to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who is sifting through casino proposals and negotiating deals. Mayor Sarno has become the center of negotiating an agreement to give one or more operators the cityâ€™s support â€“ something the Gaming Commission did not foresee.
â€śWell I donâ€™t think anybody particularly anticipated that there would be multiple sites in a city â€¦But thatâ€™s what we elect mayors for, to make decisions like this,â€ť said Mass Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby. â€śAs long as itâ€™s transparent and as long as the public knows how the decisionâ€™s being made then thatâ€™s fine.â€ť
Mayor Sarno will have a lot of power in deciding how many gaming bids the city will support and which will be put on a binding ballot vote. Gaming Commissioners say theyâ€™re not worried about the potential for corruption.
â€śHopefully those days are long in the past. This is a city, that you know, like the state, is going through the process of issuing a gaming license for the first time,â€ť said Mass Gaming Commissioner and former Springfield City Counselor Bruce Stebbins. â€śWe can only hope that they follow our model of the way weâ€™ve conducted ourselves. Be transparent, be open, so at the end of the day weâ€™re going to look back on a process that we are proud of.â€ť
Casino operators will compete for one casino license in Western Massachusetts, which could be issued as early as next October. The Commission expects Mayor Sarno and Springfield to be on a tight schedule to get their casino picked out well before then.
Chairman Crosby says thereâ€™s an â€śoff-setting benefitâ€ť to having Springfield throw its support behind a casino soon. â€ś[If] you tell [casino operators] early on youâ€™re not going to be a bidder in Springfield, and itâ€™s still early enough in the process, [operators] might be able to go some place else, western Mass or some place else.â€ť
Mayor Sarno estimates it will take about eight months for the city to choose and negotiate support for one or more casinos, followed by a binding ballot vote in the spring.
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