SPRINGFIELD — As many as four top-tier casino developers have informed Springfield officials that they would like to build a gambling resort in this struggling city on the Connecticut River, a level of interest unmatched in other parts of the state that will force developers into direct competition even before they apply for a state license.
“We’re ground zero, baby,” Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno gushed during an extended interview.
While several Bay State communities have slammed the door on casinos, Sarno put out the welcome mat in the spring, saying he would “fight tooth and nail” to bring a casino to Springfield. Such gung-ho receptiveness, combined with a prime location on a major north-south interstate just off the Massachusetts Turnpike, has reshaped the competition for the sole gambling resort license in the state’s western region, and vaulted Springfield into a leading contender.
Eric Schippers, spokesman for Penn National Gaming, one of the companies interested in Springfield, said Sarno’s comments “sent a very important signal when we were doing due diligence on sites.”
“You have to be able to win a local election,” said Schippers, referring to the requirement that casino proposals earn the endorsement of local voters in a referendum. “There have been some obvious false starts in other communities.”
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