Opinion

Editorial

The Casino is a Citywide Issue in Springfield

The Springfield City Council is apparently still gathering information and formulating a decision on whether the vote to support a specific resort-casino proposal in the community should be citywide. We understand the need to be thorough and to hear different voices on this subject, but in our opinion, this is a no-brainer, a decision that should have been made a long time ago.

This is a matter that impacts every section and every citizen of Springfield, no matter where the casino is built, so it should certainly be an issue for the entire city to decide.

This has become even more clear over the past several weeks as details have emerged on the three dueling casino plans — in some cases more than others. When one looks at the size and scope of the proposals, it becomes evident that a casino will alter the look, the feel, the perception, and, most importantly, the future of the city.

The phrase ‘game-changer’ has come into vogue in recent years — mayors seem to love it — and it is often overused and used incorrectly. But in this instance it fits; a casino will definitely change the game in Springfield and in surrounding communities as well.

There are some who would argue that, because a casino will be located in a certain neighborhood, only that ward, or precinct, should be able to vote on the matter, because those residents will be the ones most affected by such a development. Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino seems to be in that camp, because he’s fearful that residents who don’t live in Revere or East Boston might not support a huge casino proposed for Suffolk Downs.

And such thinking probably explains why the state’s new gambling law permits large cities like Boston and Springfield to limit a casino vote to a host ward.

But Springfield’s officials shouldn’t take advantage of that provision. Whether a Springfield casino is built off Page Bouvelard, in the South End, or in the North End, it will have implications that will reach into Sixteen Acres, Forest Park, Mason Square, and Indian Orchard. There will be jobs, tax revenue, and donations from the chosen casino operator to groups and causes that represent the entire city. There will also be inconveniences from construction, traffic problems, and a negative impact on many different kinds of businesses because of the dollars that will instead be flowing into a casino.

Springfield will become the destination that people have long wanted it to be, and because of that, it will change in every way that an urban center can change. Such a decision can’t be left to a small fraction of the city’s population.

There are many decisions that have to be made in Springfield over the next several months on the casino issue. Most, including the ultimate decision on which plan or plans will go before the voters on a referendum, will involve a high degree of difficulty.

Indeed, as details on the proposals emerge, it becomes clear that they all have merit, question marks, and potential. Choosing a finalist or finalists will be a hard decision.

What shouldn’t be hard is deciding who gets a voice on this matter. Everyone who calls Springfield home should have a say.

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