July 16, 2013 - 8:14 pm
Voters in Springfield, Mass., approved a plan Tuesday by MGM Resorts International to build an $800 million hotel-casino complex in the community.
Voter approval was required before Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts could apply to the state Gaming Commission for a single casino license in western Massachusetts.
Springfield election officials said voter turnout was “steadier” than anticipated.
In the final vote total, 57.6 percent of the voters favored the casino, while 42.4 percent opposed it. Almost 25 percent of all voters participated in the election.
“During a midsummer heat wave, Springfield residents came out and voted in strong numbers in this election,” MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle said. “With the momentum of today’s historic vote and the backing of the leadership and people of Springfield, we look forward to taking our message to all of western Massachusetts.”
MGM Resorts has proposed building a 250-room hotel with an 89,000-square-foot casino and 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in a three-block area of Springfield, adjacent to Interstate 91. Plans also call for a 12-screen movie theater and a bowling center.
The city of Springfield will receive more than $25 million annually in payments from MGM Resorts if the casino project is built. Casino backers in Springfield said the project would bring jobs and economic development to an area of the city that was damaged by a tornado in 2011.
MGM Resorts is expected to be one of three companies vying for the license, competing with a casino plan for the town of Palmer that has been proposed by the Mohegan Sun Indian tribe and an offer from Hard Rock International for a casino in nearby West Springfield.
MGM Resorts is the sole casino operator looking to develop in Springfield. Ameristar Casinos abandoned its project, and the city rejected a proposal offered by Penn National Gaming.
MGM Resorts is the second of 11 original Massachusetts casino applicants to win the backing of its host community.
In June, more than 86 percent of Everett voters endorsed a casino project proposed by Wynn Resorts Ltd. Wynn is competing for the Greater Boston casino license, with a proposal from Caesars Entertainment Corp. and the Suffolk Downs Racetrack in East Boston and a proposal from Foxwoods in Milford.
More communities are expected to hold casino votes in the coming months.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to choose the sole winner of the western Massachusetts license in early 2014.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal. com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.