| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD - With the revelation that Massachusetts casinos could apply to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. - despite a state-wide cap of 2 a.m. - the question will be whether or not an extended closing time is in the MGM Springfield business plan.
MGM Springfield Spokesman Carole Brennan told Reminder Publications, “MGM Springfield is evaluating the opportunity for extended alcohol hours provided by the Legislature. 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.”
Plainridge Park Casino, the state’s “slot parlor,” has a closing time of 1 a.m. The language in the change of the law would allow MGM to continue serving alcohol as long as a person is gambling.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno did not rule out having an extension for MGM Springfield. Sarno has been critical in the past of a 2 a.m. closing time for bars. In 2015 he sought to impose a 1 a.m. closing as way to address incidences of violence that were happening at closing time.
At that time, Sarno was concerned that people from Hartford, CT, were coming to Springfield to take advantage of the difference between last call there and last call here and subsequently causing problems.
Sarno released the following statement to Reminder Publications: “I believe this was inserted in the state budget giving the Gaming Commission the ability to approve casino alcohol serving until 4 a.m. MGM will be a 24/7 operation and I think we expected alcohol serving to exceed restrictions for city establishments, but I will have my appropriate city departments also review to see, if any other local modifications are warranted or not.”
Chris Russell, executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District, said his board approves the state’s decision as it would allow MGM to compete with the casinos in Connecticut, as well as those that will be developed in the Commonwealth.
In response to a question posed on Facebook about whether or not extending hours for MGM would provide the casino with an unfair advantage over other businesses in the city, City Councilor Tim Rooke was brief but to the point by writing, “Equal hours across the board.”
City Council candidate Ken Gilet said on Facebook, “I support the MGM project but believe there should not be preferential treatment. Four a.m. should be the standard for all Springfield establishments as well – that benefits our businesses in Springfield.”
City Council Candidate Kelli Moriarty-Finn said, “Per Massachusetts state law, casinos have the right to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. Seeing as how no establishment in Springfield can serve past 2 a.m., I do not view this as a detriment to local business. However, there are potential public safety issues that can stem from this. I’ve been vocal during my campaign that I will be certain to hold MGM accountable to their promises. One of those promises is an increased number of police in downtown, specifically the casino area. Additionally, law states that the distribution of alcohol until 4 a.m. must be to patrons actively engaged in gaming, and I’m hopeful that this policy will be proactively adhered to by MGM but we must also ensure that happens. MGM is a highly respected gaming corporation, and I’m sure that they value their reputation, but we must collaborate with MGM to ensure that our streets, neighborhoods and local highways remain safe 24/7, not just up until 4 a.m.”