The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has been busy lately, devoting much of its focus to moderating host and surrounding community negotiations. Over the past few weeks, the Commission has heard presentations from Category 1 and Category 2 applicants, as well as representatives from potential surrounding communities.
During the Commission’s November 7, 2013 public meeting, representatives from MGM provided an update on the status of their discussions with communities around Springfield, the potential site for the gaming establishment. They have identified and communicated with approximately 7 surrounding communities, and they noted that the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has been particularly helpful in organizing and moderating these conversations. Acknowledging that the main topic of interest in these communities seems to be traffic and transportation concerns, the MGM’s traffic consultant presented a chart with the anticipated traffic flow, traffic capacity, and traffic mitigation efforts planned for the site, highlighting ways that MGM could distribute traffic flow evenly.
The Commission also heard from Crossroads and Foxwoods regarding their casino bid in Milford, where they have already designated 6 surrounding communities. Similarly, representatives from Wynn Everett presented details regarding their own community discussions, focusing on efforts to measure the potential economic, environmental, and traffic impacts for surrounding communities.
The discussions regarding host and surrounding community negotiations continued during the Commission’s public meeting on November 14, 2013. Ombudsman John Ziemba invited potential surrounding communities related to the proposed gaming establishments in Leominster and Raynham to address the Commission about their concerns.
The Leominster-related communities spoke first, with Larry Delaney, the Selectman from the town of Bolton, kicking off the conversation. Delaney explained that Bolton already has to deal with a large volume of traffic, and that the proposed gaming establishment in Leominster would greatly increase the level of traffic along Route 117, thereby adversely affecting every aspect of life in Bolton. Delaney argued that in their traffic analysis, the Cordish Company “grossly underestimated” the amount of traffic that will inevitably use Route 117.
In response, Joseph Weinberg, the President of Cordish, took the stage to address the Commission. Weinberg stated that Cordish believes that most of the traffic will come off of the state roads and highways. He also noted that in the surrounding community discussions, the main issue has been over public safety costs, particularly the cost of police responding to increased traffic. As a result, Weinberg explained that Cordish has agreed to address this concern by covering related public safety costs in five surrounding communities.
The potential surrounding communities related to the proposed gaming establishment in Raynham presented to the Commission next. They, too, expressed concerns regarding potential traffic impacts and public safety. Representatives from Raynham Park explained that they are addressing these concerns and are close to finalizing surrounding community agreements.
As these discussions continue, the Commission stresses the importance of public participation in this process and encourages people to attend the upcoming host community meetings