Springfield, one of the neighbors to our south, has taken a lead position in landing a casino here in Massachusetts.
Just this week, Ameristar Casinos unveiled a casino/hotel project off Interstate 291 in the eastern part of the city, plans that come with a $910 million price tag. Along with all that gamblers would expect in a 21st-century gaming facility, the plans call for a 500-room luxury hotel including 50 suites, restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa and fitness center, a parking garage, etc.
And Ameristar isn’t the only casino operation that’s courting Springfield.
Given all this attention and the glitter of these projects, it’s no wonder that Springfield officials and many residents want to jump on the fast track and get building.
But how quickly Springfield is able to act is countered by the pace established by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the panel created to oversee the process of opening the door to three destination casinos and one slot parlor here in the commonwealth. While the commission may be moving at a much slower pace than Springfield or any other community that wants to be a host, it’s important that the commission lead the way.
It’s important to get every aspect right before a single casino is awarded a license in Massachusetts because the money involved and the pitfalls are too great to do otherwise.
Coming late to the casino game puts the commission in a powerful position of having a multitude of examples of where states have gotten it right — and wrong — when it comes to casino gambling. From the costs of licenses and the percentage of revenue sent to the state from casino profits to seeing that the operator puts aside money to reinvest in all aspects of the casino infrastructure, Massachusetts must create a financial blueprint where the state doesn’t come out a loser.
That blueprint also includes handling the down side to the casino gambling business. That means expanding law enforcement to deal with crime inside and out as well as dealing with the social ills associated with people who have addictions to gambling, Massachusetts taxpayers should not be left holding the bag on these and other costs.
With the state anticipating that the casinos will generate revenue in the $1 billion range, it’s too critical to dot every i and cross every t — even if that means getting Springfield to slow down its own process.
When it comes to casinos, there’s too much at stake.