Springfield voters on Tuesday endorsed an $800 million casino proposal by MGM Resorts, making MGM the second of 11 original Massachusetts casino applicants to win the backing of its host community.
Following a high-profile campaign by the gambling giant, residents supported the proposal by a vote of 13,973 to 10,260, keeping MGM alive in the competition for the sole casino resort license created for Western Massachusetts. About 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to City Hall.
The company best known for its prominent Las Vegas Strip properties, including the upscale Bellagio and the pyramid-themed Luxor, promises to remake the South End of downtown Springfield with a hotel, cinema, restaurants, spa, and other amenities, in addition to a gambling floor with slot machines and table games.
Since unveiling plans for the project last August, MGM has aggressively courted Springfield through community meetings, advertising, and social media. The company has already invested more than $10 million in its pursuit of the Western Massachusetts resort casino license.
The state gambling commission has not yet completed its background checks on the applicants. If that hurdle is cleared, MGM will face off against a casino plan for Palmer proposed by Mohegan Sun and a plan by Hard Rock International to build a casino on the Big E fairgrounds in neighboring West Springfield. Those rival developers also await their background checks and referenda votes. Under the state’s 2011 casino law, no gambling developer can earn a casino license without winning the approval of the local community at the ballot box.
The gambling commission will choose the sole winner of the Western Massachusetts license in early 2014.
In June, the City of Everett became the first Massachusetts community to endorse a resort casino through a binding vote under the state casino law.
The next step for MGM is to file additional information to the state gambling commission detailing the scope of the project, said Kevin Kennedy, Springfield’s chief development officer. MGM will also negotiate with surrounding communities. Arbitration will settle the matter if negotiations are unsuccessful.