MGM is emerging as the 800 pound gorilla in the fight for a Springfield casino.  An iconic name worldwide in gaming and resort destinations, MGM is acting like the behemoth that they are.  Operators of The MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, New York, New York, Luxor and Excalibur in Vegas and monumental holdings in Asia, what MGM wants with little old Springfield is anybody’s guess.  Although with a 2012 Q3 loss of $181.2 million, Casino is guessing every little bit helps!

Partnered locally with the other Picknelly brother, Paul, MGM is planning a massive 800 million dollar undertaking in Springfield’s south end.  Their plans incorporate existing venues like the Mass Mutual Center and Symphony Hall.  They are offering everything from 165,000 feet of retail to a bowling alley. They too also plan a link to Union Station via a trolley system.  Of course what they aren’t saying is that they won’t have any better luck booking the Mass Mutual Center than it’s current stewards Global Spectrum as the size and proximity to Hartford is prohibitive but more on that in another story.

MGM spent we hear close to 13 Million to win the referendum. That’s why you aren’t going to hear any negative stories about the “Golden Lion” on any of our TV or radio stations.  They have donated significant monies for sponsorship of both the Springfield Falcons and Springfield Armor along with $50,000 to the South End Community Center (Mayor Sarno’s pet project and old employer) and sponsored the recent tree lighting ceremony in town.

Altruism has also extended to local land owners including the Catholic Church.  MGM has been over-paying for all the land it can grab.  MGM recently bought the former St. Josephs Rectory on Howard Street for a cool million.  Yes, the same property that is on the Springfield assessors books for $362,000.  MGM also has bid 3.2 million dollars for the Zanetti School and State Armory building.  The only other bid for the Zanetti property was from the Colvest group for $750,000. Considering the Colvest group is one of the most storied and experienced realty concerns in the City of Homes, we think this is significant.  No other company would better understand the true price of real estate.

As high as the level of skid greasing in Springfield by MGM is, it’s even more interesting given the potential problems that MGM will have getting a license from the MA Gaming Commission.  Commish Gayle Cameron has already publicly questioned MGM’s ability to compete in this state after losing its bid to open a casino in NJ because of ties to organized crime in Macau.  And Cameron should know.  She was a former colonel in the NJ State Police who personally oversaw all casino investigations.

Remember the name Pansy Ho.  There will be a quiz.  Pansy Ho is one of the wealthiest women in the world, (with a net worth over $5 billion), and she could be MGM’s Achilles heel in Springfield.

in 2010 New Jersey gaming regulators disallowed MGM’s request to put a casino in Atlantic City because its principle investor in Macau was Pansy Ho.  NJ ruled that Pansy, heir to Stanley Ho’s multi billion dollar casino empire, relied on her dad just a bit too much when he gave her 90% of the funds she invested in MGM Grand Macau. What’s wrong with a gift from a Dad?  Well, Pansy’s pop has been connected to Chinese organized crime.  And those guys don’t fool around! is pretty sure that if NJ won’t let in this type of connection to organized crime, it would be a tough stretch to think that MA would allow the nexus.  Lest you think that MGM would divest itself from Macau to play in the Bay State, think again.  Macau is a $33 billion gambling mecca.  Coupled with MGM’s financial difficulties of late, we think MGM might be playing a less than winning hand. 

THE ODDS: 7 to 1

Casino will provide information about those who have already paid the $400,000 to the state to join the game.  As more players emerge, look here for updated bios and odds of success.  Odds are based on a combination of being selected for a community host agreement, winning a local referendum and being awarded the state contract.

The Players

Mohegan Sun

In the movie Talledega nights, Will Ferrel’s character opines “If you’re not first, your last”!  Well, Mohegan Sun was able to be both... First to announce and last to pay.  But with their newly found financial partner Brigade Capitol Management, Mohegan Sun has put their, (well Brigade’s), money where their mouth is.

 The Mohegan Sun’s site has always been at first glance relatively attractive.  300 acres in a town with little political turmoil or hanky panky. It’s as central as we can get to central MA, as Worcester actually falls into the Boston area for gaming guidelines.

Originally Governor Patrick had even originally expressed a desire to have a rural casino and Palmer is as close to rural as any casino site is going to be.  But in the beauty lies a problem, economic impact.  As in there wont be nearly as much as an urban casino, and that seems to be on the minds of the Gaming Commission.

Brigade is a $12 Billion investment advisor who has agreed to put up the capital to make this project happen. To be honest, we just can’t figure out why.

Unfortunately there is a whole lot more going against a Mohegan Sun Palmer than for it.  First, without the backing of Brigade, The Mohegans are broke.  They are in massive debt. Like $1.6 Billion in debt.  They have found that running the second largest casino in the country ain’t easy.  Which begs the question, why do it again in Palmer?

For a lot of onlookers and a few skeptics, maybe they really don’t want to.  They just launched in AC and have announced plans to go into the Catskills taking over the Concord Resort. So, maybe playing in Palmer is just a way to keep the wolves at bay and the giant sucking sound from hitting Uncasville.

Against deep pockets like MGM it would seem to be a lopsided fight.  The site, though rural, really has some enormous challenges like how the hell to get there from the Pike?  Remember, the DOT won’t allow the building of a spur for a private business. And the biggest problem that nobody has mentioned in the mainstream press...No Water!  That’s right.  There is not enough water on the site for a casino.  We hear that they will have to run a 7 mile pipeline from Quabbin to get to the the resources.  Or borrow from Monson.  No problem?  Big problem!  A pipeline would go through protected, environmentally sensitive lands.  One turtle, one salamander, no chemin de fer!

Add to the mix a pretty well organized anti casino effort in the Palmer area.  They have had a few years head start and would not like to be in a battle with the folks on the ground.  Look for longtime casino naysayer and Monson resident Kathleen Norbut to be involved in this fight. Check out the world tenacity in the dictionary and Kathleen will be staring back at you. 

Mohegan Sun Palmer?  We just don’t see it.

THE ODDS: 5 to 1

And Then There Were Two