Why Springfield Should Vote ‘Yes’

There are a number of good reasons why Springfield residents should vote ‘yes’ when they go to the polls on July 16 to consider the host community agreement forged by city officials and administrators with MGM Resorts International — the next step in the process of deciding the winner of the license for a Western Mass. casino.
Maybe the most compelling is an argument made by a number of business leaders and economic development officials over the past year or so. The specific words expressed vary, but it usually sounds something like this: ‘if someone wants to spend $800 million in your city — you let them!’ (And while generally, exclamation points are not used in business writing, in this case, we’ll make an exception.)
OK, it’s not as simple as all that, but it’s actually very close. We’ll amend this argument slightly. ‘If someone wants to spend $800 million in your city, and there is no better (and in this case, no other) viable option for stimulating economic development and creating thousands of new jobs — you let them!’
We understand that there are a number of risks involved with casinos in general and urban casinos in particular — they simply haven’t worked in a number of regions of this country — but we believe that these are risks well worth taking.
That’s because in Springfield, a city that has been struggling for the better part of a half century now, there really is no ‘plan B’ when it comes to spurring new jobs, creating energy, and possibly resurrecting a neighborhood — in this case, the beleaguered, tornado-ravaged South End.
The proposed MGM Springfield complex has the potential to do all that. Yes, it also has the potential to come up considerably short with each of those assignments, but we don’t believe that it will. Its somewhat unique inside-out design will make this proposed facility part of a neighborhood, not a casino-in-a-box that sucks the life out of one.
But let’s look at this another way. Instead of focusing on the possible ramifications of a ‘yes’ vote, let’s consider what a ‘no’ vote means. Essentially it means that the Western Mass. casino — and yes, there will be one — will be located somewhere else, and there are at least two other landing spots.
If that happens, Springfield will not get the complications that come with construction of such a facility, or the traffic, or some of the problems that might come with a casino on the edge of its central business district.
But it also won’t get the chance to put itself back on the map, or reshape its South End neighborhood and achieve the revitalization that has eluded that area for nearly 50 years, or see the direct benefits in the form of contributions to nonprofits, investments in facilities and infrastructure, and donations that will boost public safety initiatives.
A ‘no’ vote will also result in a depressing return to the drawing board in search of another method of providing the economic spark needed to reverse this city’s fortunes. There has been little to come off that drawing board since Springfield’s manufacturing base started to erode just after World War II, and there is little to suggest that much else will come off it in the years to come.
MGM’s proposal for Springfield may not win the contest for the Western Mass. casino license. Indeed, the Mass. Gaming Commission may decide that another plan is more alluring and better for the Commonwealth. But this proposal can’t win unless Springfield voters provide the opportunity for it to get to the next level ‘And thus, we strongly urge them to do so.
We can state the case for this casino in a number of ways, but the argument we mentioned earlier does it best: ‘if someone wants to spend $800 million in your city — you let them!’
There’s that exclamation point again, and it is certainly needed.

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