Briefings: Springfield Voters Take MGM’s Bet…
Tonight Springfield voters approved MGM’s plan for a “resort style” casino. The Yes vote won by 16 points for a 58-42% win. By most measures this would be a dramatic victory for MGM and its supporters and an ignominious loss for the opponents.
While it was definitely a solid win for MGM, it was not necessarily as a painful defeat for opponents as the numbers would suggest. The reason is not just because the vote ensures nothing for MGM and that there are still a number of hoops for the Las Vegas-based company to leap through.
Opponents vowed to fight on before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, but will do so without one critical albatross around their necks: a blowout at the polls. But did not MGM just win by 16 points? Yes, but they could not break the psychologically critical 60% of the vote, which given the reported 300 to 1 spending advantage MGM had over Citizens Against Casino Gambling, they certainly could have.
Opponents said they had momentum, but that could merely be bluster on their side. What does seem clear is that MGM peaked too soon. Certainly it opens the question of whether more time might have changed the result, although that still seems unlikely.
By no means does this mean that MGM cannot score the Western Massachusetts casino license. And to be fair, we acknowledge our own bias in this analysis given our stated opposition to the proposal.
However, Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, said a minor, but not unimportant factor would be the margin. To have that margin, with such an overwhelming spending advantage, may mean this will not be the deciding factor that it could have been. If the Commission weighed Mohegan Sun and MGM equally, a blowout above 60% might have made the choice obvious.
Tellingly, the only people using the phrase “blowout” were MGM officials. Even reporters, who had earlier in the evening predicted a landslide—namely around the time the Yes vote was up by a 2-1 margin—only employed the term in quotes.
Whatever the result, the close of this chapter in the city is good because now the process is almost entirely out of the city’s hand’s. There is little more that Mayor Domenic Sarno or his team can do but lobby, which puts him back at the same level as opponents who will continue their fight before the commission.
To that end, all of the people who worked on both sides deserve accolades for their hard work. Both sides deserve immense credit for turning out more of Springfield voters than the 2011 municipal election. Indeed, for all of the fears that a July election would depress turnout, that seems not to be the case.
Let’s be frank, MGM earned this win. Now can they win the hearts and minds of the Gaming Commission?