Monday, October 21, 2013

An argument against having a casino in Springfield

The following was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Michelle Steger, a resident of Longmeadow, MA.

“Do you live within a few miles of the proposed casino site in Springfield, and could any roads in your town be used as a cut through to access the casino?”
Yes on both counts,” I replied to the woman working for the North Stonington, CT Select Board Office.  “Then your town will never be the same if the casino comes to Springfield.  It’s been so painful for us here,” she said.

My conversations with this woman and other town leaders who live in communities surrounding Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut have haunted me. 

I am not from around here.  I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, but growing up, I always wanted to live in New England.  When I first visited Longmeadow, where my husband, Ted, grew up, I knew I had found my home.  We have been here for 5 years now, have a 1-year-old son, and could not be happier.  However, when we first heard that a casino might be placed 2.5 miles from our house, we wondered what impact that might have on the community we love so much. 

My husband and I are not experts, but we have been humbly asking questions and seeking answers for the last year, and the more we have learned about casinos and the way they operate, the more concerned we are about what a casino in the South End of Springfield would mean for Springfield, Longmeadow and other surrounding communities.  This concern has led us to join with other concerned citizens to form a group, No Casino Springfield ( that will be hosting a Call to Action on Wednesday October 23rd at 7PM at St. Andrew’s Church in Longmeadow.

Before we get too deep into the argument against having a casino in the area, we should probably set the stage to make clear where we are in the process.  Under the Massachusetts gaming law, a commission was formed called the Mass Gaming Commission (MGC), and it is made up of 5 people who are tasked with deciding which applicants will get a casino license in each of the 3 regions of the state.  In Western Mass, there are 2 contenders.

Springfield, which signed a host community agreement with MGM, held their referendum in July, and it passed 57-42.  Now that sounds like a big margin until you consider that Everett, MA passed their referendum 83-17.  And when you consider that MGM spent $12 million to try to win the vote, the fact that they could not even get to 60% tells us that there is not overwhelming support for a casino in Springfield, which is something that the MGC has said that they would like to see.

The town of Palmer has signed a host community agreement with Mohegan Sun, and they will hold their referendum on November 5th.

In the language of the MA Gaming Commission (MGC), the cities of Springfield and Palmer are host communities because the casinos will be located in those towns, and Longmeadow and other communities will be considered surrounding communities to Springfield.  In order to be a surrounding community, the chairman of the MGC has said that community would have to experience a "substantial negative impact” as a result of the casino.  The host community gets a direct vote, but the surrounding communities have also been asked by the MGC to give input.  They have said that the enthusiasm, or lack of enthusiasm, shown by the host community and surrounding communities will be taken into consideration when the MGC debates where to put the casino.

We have been encouraging people in the region to provide enthusiastic opposition to a casino in Springfield, and the citizens of Longmeadow have two ways to provide that input.
  1. Go to and share your thoughts.
  2. Come to the Town Meeting on November 5th at the high school and vote to approve a resolution opposing a casino in Springfield.
So, I may not be from around here, but I want to do everything I can to keep my adopted home casino-free.  Below is a summary of some of the reasons and evidence for why I oppose a casino in Springfield, and why I hope you will join us in our efforts.

Traffic / OUI
  • Our roads are already congested and having a casino nearby would only stand to make things worse.
  • By state law, the casino will be allowed to serve FREE alcohol from 8AM to 2AM daily.  The town of Ledyard, CT which hosts Foxwoods casino has the highest rate of OUI accidents in the state of Connecticut.  Do we want more drunk and impaired drivers on our roads endangering our families and ourselves?
Economic Impact
  • Casinos can operate their entertainment, shops and restaurants at a loss in order to get as many people as possible to the casino, but this undercutting of prices will hurt local businesses and restaurants in Springfield, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and other communities.
  • The only way for a casino to have a positive impact on a region is for most of the patrons to come from outside the region.  For a city like Springfield, there is very little likelihood that many people will come from more than a short drive away.  Therefore, people who live locally who would normally be spending money at other local businesses will instead go to the casino to spend their money. This will enrich the casino operator at the expense of our local economy.
  • Casinos reduce residential property values in surrounding areas, thus reducing town receipts, which may require tax increases to make up for the lost revenue. This would be especially painful for a bedroom community like Longmeadow that is dependent on strong residential property values to support town operations.  A National Association of Realtors study calls casinos effect on home values "unambiguously negative."  A 2009 study from the state of Connecticut found that property values along main arteries decreased by 10%.  One selectman we talked to in North Stonington, CT said that property values in his town have decreased 25% within a 1/4 mile of routes traveled to reach Foxwoods casino. 
 Social Costs
  • Approximately 1.5-2% of people nationally have a gambling problem. But, living within 50 miles of a casino doubles the number of addicted gamblers, and having a casino within 10 miles doubles the number again. So, if a casino is located in Springfield, between 6-8% of people living within 10 miles of the casino will have a gambling problem. There are currently 481,000 people living within 10 miles of the proposed MGM casino site, so that means somewhere between 18,000-28,000 additional people (not to mention the suffering of countless family members) in our communities will be plagued with a gambling problem if a casino were to come to Springfield.
  • A 2005 Harvard study of jobs and casinos shows that, on average, the unemployment rate is unchanged after the introduction of a casino, which is partially due to the closing of businesses in the area that lose income because of the casino itself.
  • The number of people who will be harmed by the casino far outnumber the people who will be employed because of the casino.
  • The town on North Stonington, CT (population 5400, adjacent to Foxwoods) receives $880,000/year in mitigation funds, but one town selectman we spoke to says it is not nearly enough to cover the costs they incur because of the casino.
  • There are many hidden costs to a town (including impacts on school budgets, housing, tax base, quality of life, and character of the town) that cannot be accounted for by mitigation costs.
Long Term Prospects
  • The casino proponents have never pointed to a template of a successful casino city that Springfield is trying to emulate.  If casinos are so great for a city, why can’t they point to a city and region that has benefited from a casino in the long-term? Casinos may provide a brief economic boost, but the casino licenses that will be awarded in Massachusetts are for 75 years, so it is important to look at long-term impacts, and no city, excluding Las Vegas, has benefitted from casinos in the long run.
  • I want the best for Springfield and Longmeadow both today and for many years to come.  Any potential  short-term benefit would soon dissipate and be more than made up for by the costs that grow as the casino sucks more from our local economy and damages our local families. 
For more information, or if you’d like to get involved, feel free to contact us at

Michelle Steger