Three well-known casino developers met Thursday’s deadline to submit a formal proposal and a $50,000 fee to the City of Springfield and will compete for the city’s support in pursuit of casino development rights in Western Massachusetts.
MGM Resorts, Penn National Gaming, and Ameristar will battle for the city’s favor, each proposing a gambling resort development approaching $1 billion.
Hard Rock International, which had expressed interest in Springfield and pursued land downtown, did not submit a proposal and will not compete in the city.
The 2011 state casino law allots one resort casino license for Western Massachusetts. In addition to the three companies in Springfield, the operators of the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut have proposed a resort in Palmer. The state gambling commission will eventually decide which project will be licensed.
Mayor Domenic Sarno has set up a local contest to evaluate the casino projects in Springfield. His administration set the Thursday deadline for casino operators to submit financial information about their companies and rough outlines of their projects. The city will demand more detailed information about each project later, and Sarno is expected to choose one or two winners with whom to negotiate the terms by which the city would agree to host a gambling resort.
The host agreements would then need the endorsement of local voters in separate ballot questions before the winning companies may apply to the gambling commission for a state license.
Also on Thursday, Penn National released details and an artist rendering of its proposed $807 million casino and entertainment complex in Springfield’s north end. The cost estimate is just slightly higher than the $800 million proposed in August by MGM, which wants to build in the city’s south end. Penn denied any intentional one-upmanship, though the size of the investment will be an important factor in the public campaign to win support for each project.
“Our proposed $807 million destination casino resort will be the centerpiece of a revitalization of the city and bring thousands of new permanent jobs, significant union construction jobs, and millions of tax dollars to the region,’’ company chairman Peter Carlino said.
Penn National’s proposal calls for 3,000 to 3,500 slot machines, poker rooms, up to 100 live table games, and a hotel with 300 to 500 rooms. The plan would create new restaurants, a spa, parking garage, and up to 45,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. The complex would be called Hollywood Casino Springfield.
Penn, in partnership with Peter Picknelly, a Springfield businessman and operator of Peter Pan Bus Lines, plans to build on 13.4 acres near the city’s downtown. The development would include land now occupied by The Republican newspaper, which would relocate if the project wins a license. The newspaper’s current building would then be torn down.
The newspaper’s publisher, George Arwady, said in a Globe interview Thursday that the paper will not be an investor or owner in the casino proposal. “Our main function is to get out of the way,” he said. “We are selling the property, pure and simple.”
Terms of the possible sale have not been released. Arwady said the newspaper has a “handshake agreement” to sell and is still negotiating a formal option deal for the sale of its building and land.
Penn irked fellow competitor Ameristar in its announcement, by saying the company would be willing to help develop the 41 acres Ameristar owns in east Springfield, where Ameristar proposes its casino resort.
“If Ameristar is not successful, we’d want to step up,” said Eric Schippers, a Penn National spokesman. “We have offered to bring in a third party to revitalize that site.”
“That should be fairly easy to do,” shot back Troy Stremming, an Ameristar senior vice president, “given our great location and easy access from the highway,”
On Thursday, Ameristar released some details of its proposal: a $910 million development with 3,300 slot machines, 110 table games, a 500-room hotel, parking for 4,300 cars, plus restaurants, a spa, pools, and meeting space.
The company will reveal further details and renderings soon, Stremming said.