By Carley Dangona
BOSTON – After months of discussions, MGM Springfield and the West Springfield failed to reach a surrounding community agreement. Each party pled its case before a panel of judges on April 18. A decision is expected by early May.
Each party had three hours to present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, retired judges Margaret Hinkle, Charles Swartwood III and Allan van Gestel, all of JAMS Resolution Experts, a private alternative dispute resolution provider.
MGM and West Side each selected a member of the panel, and those panelists then chose the third member. Both MGM and the town had a half hour rebuttal period after the cases were presented. Each panel member will independently review the case and make a decision. At least two of the three must rule in favor of one party or the other for an argument to win.
Mayor Edward Sullivan anticipated that the panel would make its ruling by May 5. He said, “They [MGM] based their entire presentation on the look-back philosophy. I believe this is a flawed approach and is certainly not industry standard.”
The look-back approach addresses issues once they arise. The basis for this argument is that the impact of a casino can lead to many possible changes, too many to anticipate, so it is better to address them as they occur rather than pre-emptively anticipate what will happen.
“That approach is flawed in many, many areas,” Sullivan said. His main opposition is to the fact that MGM seeks to establish a baseline year for impact assessment during the year prior to its opening when both the Interstate 91 viaduct and the Memorial Avenue Rotary Bridge will be under construction. Sullivan said that MGM could then say the impacts to West Springfield were due to the construction and not its casino venue.
The town’s panel consisted of the mayor, Police Chief Ronald Campurciani, Fire Chief William Flaherty, Department of Public Works Director Robert Colson, Town Attorney Simon Brighenti Jr., Attorney Jonathon Silverstein of Kopelman and Paige, P.C., John Turner from Pro Forma Advisors, LLC, and Jason DeGray of Greenman-Pedersen Inc.
Sullivan said that MGM’s panel consisted of MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis, Attorney Seth Stratton, Attorney Jed Nosal of Brown Rudnick, LLP, and others that served as counterparts to the West Side team.
“I’m pleased with our presentation. A lot of time and effort went into it,” Sullivan said.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission allotted 20 days total for the arbitration process, so MGM and the town have until June 8 to complete the process.