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Metro

MGM makes pitch for its casino in Springfield

Top executives from casino giant MGM Resorts told the state gambling commission Thursday that they are ready to join the rebirth of the city of Springfield, by spending $800 million to build a casino and entertainment complex in a downtown area ravaged by a tornado in 2011.

“We have the money, we have the experience . . . and we’re ready to go right now,” MGM chief executive James Murren told the five-member panel, near the end of the company’s 90-minute presentation on its Massachusetts development plans.

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MGM is the only applicant still in the race for the sole Western Massachusetts resort casino license, having outlasted at least four companies that sought approval.

The commission heard presentations Wednesday by applicants for the Greater Boston casino license: Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts.

The presentations are a milestone in the licensing process, essentially marking the end of the application phase and the beginning of the commission’s evaluation of the projects.

Though MGM has no competition, the commission is not obligated to award the license to the company. The panel intends to carefully review the thousands of documents MGM submitted to support its bid.

MGM has planned a four-star hotel, gambling floor, restaurants and retail stores, movie cinema, bowling alley, and other amenities.

Bill Hornbuckle MGM president, said customers would be able to visit the non-gambling attractions without passing slot machines and table games. “If you don’t want to engage with a casino, you don’t have to,” he said.

Springfield has been a coveted destination for casino companies since the state legalized Las Vegas-style gambling in late 2011. Penn National Gaming and Ameristar also pitched casinos in Springfield. At least one other company, Hard Rock International, seriously considered proposing a gambling resort in the city.

After Ameristar dropped out of the sweepstakes, city officials played Penn and MGM against each other to drive up the potential benefits of the project. In April, Mayor Domenic Sarno chose MGM to be the city’s single entrant in the contest for the license. Penn, which moved on to submit a bid for a slot parlor in Plainville, is one of three companies seeking the state’s one slot license.

Hard Rock pitched a gambling resort in West Springfield, but the plans failed at the ballot box. Another contestant for the license, Mohegan Sun, suffered a similar fate, losing in a referendum in Palmer. Mohegan Sun’s new plans are for Revere.

Sarno took a political risk when he chose MGM’s project as the only casino bid the city would support. At the time, MGM still faced the judgment of voters in a referendum and had not yet passed a mandatory state background investigation. Springfield voters endorsed the project in July, and the commission deemed the company suitable to bid in December, clearing the last administrative hurdle for the project.

Sarno closed out the presentation for MGM Thursday, saying the project could be “a precedent-setting urban redevelopment” in the heart of a struggling city.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ bostonglobemark.
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