Opinion

MGM Is Waging a Unique Battle

Editorial

When the battle lines for the Western Mass. casino license were being drawn three years ago, Springfield became ground zero. And for many reasons.

The city was on major transportation arteries; it was close to the Connecticut border; it had sites that looked practical for building a casino; it was seeing better times but was still in many ways down and out, and a casino company could win some style points for becoming part of a revitalization effort; a tornado had plowed through just a year earlier, making the city a sympathetic location.

Yes, it quickly became clear that, while there were some other contenders in the mix at various points — Palmer, Holyoke, West Springfield — Springfield was the frontrunner in this competition and the seemingly perfect place to spend $800 million or so on a casino.

Things can change quickly in three years, and they have, especially with regard to Connecticut and its decision to not sit back and watch a Springfield casino wreak more havoc on that state’s already-embattled casino industry.

Indeed, the state is essentially parterning with two Native American tribes — those that operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun — to open a casino just south of the border with Massachusetts. It is an unprecedented alliance, and its plans completely alter the equation when it comes to a Western Mass. casino and the plans to build one in Springfield.

And that’s why MGM is being ultra-aggressive in its efforts to stop this proposal in its tracks.

It has hired the Washington-based law firm led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to wage a legal battle, essentially challenging the constitutionality of the state of Connecticut’s recent granting of exclusive right to the tribes to open the casino near the border. And it is unleashing an army of lobbyists in advance of debate on the tribal plan in the Connecticiut General Assembly early next year.

The size and intensity of this fight shows just how much the plan changes the dynamic of the Springfield casino, and it also helps explain why MGM has seemed at least distracted when it comes to moving ahead with its now-$900 million plan.

It should be distracted. What Connecticut is proposing is historic and landscape-altering, and it certainly changes the perspective of Springfield as the perfect place to launch the Western Mass. casino.

In this fight, MGM is clearly in, and it needs to be. n

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