MGM Springfield Passes First Phase for Casino License

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A rendering of MGM Resorts' proposed casino complex in Springfield.

BOSTON — MGM Resorts has passed the first phase in its pursuit of a gaming license for a proposed $800 million casino complex in Springfield.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced on Monday that the company, applying as MGM Springfield, and its qualifiers have earned a positive determination of suitability.

The commission held an adjudicatory hearing on Dec. 9 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center relative to the completion of the background investigation based on the Phase 1 application submitted by MGM Springfield.

As a result of the comprehensive background investigation and deliberation by the full five-member gaming commission, the commission voted unanimously that MGM Springfield had met its burden of proof.

MGM Resorts is hoping to obtain the single resort-casino license for Western Massachusetts. Springfield voters approved a referendum on the venture last July and MGM has already held job fairs. Two other proposals in West Springfield and Palmer failed to gain voter support.

Casino representatives have said the Berkshires will be part of its marketing strategy and that it expects to pump some $50 million into the region and fill 3,000 jobs. Local cultural venues have been concerned that the proximity of a casino will prevent them from booking popular acts.

The application for a gaming license has two parts. The Phase 1 application  focuses on the qualifications and suitability of the applicants and its "qualifiers" (entities and individuals) to hold a gaming license. The Phase 2 application is site specific and focuses on site, design, finance, operation, community mitigation and other attributes of the gaming facility itself. Applicants must pass the first phase to move on to the second.

The full determination can be read here.

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Ethics Commission Alleges Conflict Violations by West Stockbridge Chief

WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Enforcement Division of the State Ethics Commission on Wednesday filed an order to show cause alleging that West Stockbridge Fire Chief Peter Skorput, a former Select Board member, committed multiple conflict-of-interest law violations, including setting stipends for himself, his daughter and his nephew; voting as a Select Board member to reappoint himself fire chief; and terminating a firefighter who had filed a complaint against him.
According to the order, shortly after Skorput was elected to the Select Board in 2013, a West Stockbridge official contacted the town's counsel about conflict-of-interest law exemptions available to Skorput regarding his serving both as a Select Board member and fire chief. 
Allegedly, town counsel advised the official that Skorput follow the requirements for a particular conflict-of-interest law exemption that would allow him to accept pay for both positions, and this was communicated to Skorput. From the time he was elected until January 2017, however, Skorput did not meet the exemption requirements and violated the conflict of law by continuing to hold his compensated fire chief position after his election to the Select Board, according to the order.
The order further alleges Skorput violated the conflict-of-interest law by participating officially in matters involving his own and his daughter's financial interests. In 2013, Skorput allegedly voted as a Select Board member to reappoint himself as fire chief. Also, as fire chief, he allegedly decided the amount of firefighter stipends for himself each December in 2013-2015 and for his daughter in 2013 and 2014, and as a Select Board member signed the pay warrants for his daughter's stipends. Additionally, at several Select Board meetings in 2015 and 2016, Skorput allegedly participated as a Select Board member in the board's review of complaints about his performance as fire chief.
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