|By Chris Maza
A lawn sign opposing proposed casino developments in Western Massachusetts sits in front of a Williams Street home. Longmeadow residents will decide on Nov. 5 whether or not to adopt a resolution urging the Massachusetts Gaming Commission not to award a license in the region.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Selectman Alex Grant and the Longmeadow citizens group No Casino Springfield have called out MGM Springfield, alleging that they are using cold calls to residents’ homes to sway their vote regarding a casino resolution at the Nov. 5 Special Town Meeting.
In a press release, No Casino Springfield stated that LSI Research, the company conducting the calls that consist of a survey regarding a casino in Springfield, has refused to identify its funding source. The anti-casino group “is convinced that the LSI Research calls are an attempt by MGM to influence the Town Meeting vote.”
“If MGM cares about the Longmeadow vote, and it wants to lobby town residents, MGM should step up and state its case publicly,” Grant said.
The vote in question would decide whether or not the town would adopt a non-binding resolution that states, “Be it resolved, that the Longmeadow Town Meeting urges the Massachusetts Gaming Commission not to issue a license to operate a casino in the cities of Springfield or West Springfield.”
Carole Brennan, spokesperson for MGM, confirmed to Reminder Publications that the gaming company is funding the surveys being conducted by LSI, which is also identified as Target Research. However, she dismissed the notion that the polling, which consists of two questions, was an effort to bias voters and stressed MGM has been open about the proposed project and its efforts to learn about residents’ feelings on it.
“MGM has held countless meetings in Springfield and surrounding communities to discuss all aspects of our widely publicized desire for a resort-casino license in Western Massachusetts,” she said. “We also have polled residents informally and formally. All of this is intended to gather information to better integrate MGM Springfield into the community.”
Brennan provided the contents of the poll’s questions. The first asks if residents are planning to attend the town meeting; the second asks specifically if residents would vote to oppose the resolution.
Grant explained in an earlier interview with Reminder Publications that a lack of support from surrounding communities, coupled with only 57 percent of Springfield residents voting favorably in their referendum vote, could affect the Gaming Commission’s decision as to where the license would be awarded.
No Casino Springfield asserted in its written statement to the press that the calls began shortly after East Longmeadow residents voted at their Oct. 21 Special Town Meeting to adopt a similar resolution that stated the town did not “approve” of casino gaming in Western Massachusetts.
Grant also challenged MGM Springfield representatives to a Lincoln-Douglas debate with No Casino Springfield.
“If MGM will not debate us, then Longmeadow and other surrounding communities will see that MGM is more interested in the dark arts of political manipulation than honest debate,” he said.
At its Oct. 28 meeting, the School Committee unanimously voted to adopt its own resolution, drafted by committee member John Fitzgerald, urging residents to vote in favor of the resolution to be voted on at the Special Town Meeting and recommends the Gaming Commission not award a license in Western Massachusetts.
School Committee Chair Michael Clark said it was the committee’s belief that a casino would affect the quality of life for Longmeadow residents, including its students.
The resolution states that Longmeadow Public Schools’ goal is to “prepare learners to achieve their full potential; contribute to a global community, cultivate confident critical thinkers and problem solvers; create and maintain a safe environment; develop the skills and habits of mind for lifelong learning. A gambling casino in Springfield promotes none of these values or ideals.”
It goes on to outline the committee’s belief that a neighboring casino would have a negative impact on property values and that change “would have a malignant effect on our ability to support schools in a manner that Longmeadow citizens have historically demanded and require for the education of our children.”
Traffic and safety were among the other concerns raised by the School Committee mentioned in the resolution.
Residents at the Special Town Meeting will also be asked to vote on a $100,000 appropriation to be used for costs incurred in the process of casino mitigation negotiations, including special legal counsel and traffic consultants.
“Supporting this article helps the town protect its interests in case a license is awarded for a downtown Springfield development,” Town Manager Stephen Crane said. “Because the decision is going to be made by the Gaming Commission alone, this is the best means to ensure Longmeadow is protected through the surrounding community legislation.”
The town would pay those expenses up front with the opportunity for reimbursement from the Gaming Commission and MGM.
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