|By G. Michael Dobbs
MGM Resorts International is negotiating with abutting communities to mitigate any possible negative side effects from its proposed downtown Springfield casino.
Reminder Publications submitted photo
CHICOPEE – With approval of MGM Resorts International by the Massachusetts State Gaming Commission extremely probable, Chicopee officials must now decide whether to accept the surrounding community agreement MGM has proposed or seek another way to receive additional mitigation funds from the casino giant.
Chicopee, which directly abuts Springfield and has the turnpike entrance that many potential MGM visitors would use to reach the casino, was offered a similar contract that Ludlow and Agawam received.
Mayor Michael Bissonnette said the city has been offered $150,000 in mitigation money annually once the casino is licensed by the state. There would be additional $125,000 for consulting and legal costs that would be paid up front. Then after one year MGM would assess if that amount covers traffic issues and other concerns. Another “look back” would happen at the five-year mark.
What concerns Bissonnette is Malden, which neighbors Everett, the site of a Wynn casino program, whose mitigation deal is far different. He noted that Malden is similar in size to Chicopee – 58,000 people to 55,000 – but Wynn is proposing giving Malden $1 million up front, $1 million annually for fiver years, in the sixth year raise that amount to $1.2 million and then increase the payments by 2.5 percent every year after that.
The Wynn project is about the same size as the MGM proposed casino, Bissonnette noted, and Malden and Everett are as close as Springfield and Chicopee.
With understatement, Bissonnette said, “I’m a little concerned.”
Bissonnette explained that MGM must get these community agreements settled by Dec. 31. If they are not communities than have until Jan. 10, 2014 to file an appeal with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The parties then have 30 days to come up with an agreement. If they don’t, arbitration will commence and there will be an additional 30 days to create one.
There is the fact that during the process with the gaming commission, Chicopee could not be identified as a surrounding community, the mayor added.
During the process Bissonnette said the city would have to put forth evidence on the expected impact. For the city that information would be “drawn out the air; there’s no impact to measure.”
Casino developers such as Wynn and MGM both have “substantial experience in this field,” Bissonnette said. “It is striking they are so far apart.”
Bissonnette had scheduled a meeting with the mayor of Malden to discuss the issue. He admitted that at this time he’s not sure what he is going to do.
“My objective is to get the best deal for the city of Chicopee while I’m still here.
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