Most casinos, including the two other gambling resorts slated for Massachusetts, are built on open land, set back from their neighbors. But a newer approach to adding a casino is increasingly on the rise – the “Urban Casino.”
What is an Urban Casino? Try finding a definition, and you can’t – but apparently it exists. These casinos have certain criteria in common:
- They are built, usually in already existing buildings, although major renovations or completely new buildings like MGM Grand, are not out if the area.
- They are built in an already existing Downtown area.
- They are made to fit in the existing landscape of the city
- They are not dependent upon having a hotel – some suggest no hotel is best because it allows visitors to explore city areas more, instead of the old idea of self-contained “hold ’em & keep ’em” hotel/casinos.
MGM is bringing a $950 million casino and hotel to the heart of a city with nearly four centuries of history, including the overnight stays of President James Polk and his secretary of state, James Buchanan, who became president in 1857 – according to Sean Murphy of the Boston Globe. “Prodded by local history buffs, MGM has pledged to integrate its 14-acre development into the downtown cityscape by preserving all or a portion of several treasured buildings, including the Union House, the 129-year-old First Spiritualist Church in Springfield which was moved so it could be preserved as part of the casino complex, and will include two very citys landmarks as important bookends on either side – the sturdy Mass Mutual building, built in the early 20th century, and the columned facade of the United Electric building. MGM plans to restore the magnificent United Electric lobby, a masterpiece that features terrazzo floors, marbled walls, and a stained-glass dome, to be displayed at the casino.
The idea of an Urban Casino is not new, but MGM’s goal is to blend it to the city of Springfield better than any downtown casinos already built.
The trend began with downtown casinos in Detroit, one of which is theGreektown Hotel-Casino in the historic Greektown District. With construction beginning in 2006
“It’s a glimpse of what future casinos may look like,” said Andrew Klebenow of Global Market Advisers, a Las Vegas-based casino consulting company. “Rather than build an island in the middle of the city, MGM wants to connect to the street grid and allow for the free flow of pedestrians and tourists into and out of its property.”
The casino will be only a couple blocks from Court Square, a wide patch of green surrounded by a white steepled church, a building designed by famed 19th-century architect H.H. Richardson, and the classically styled City Hall and Symphony Hall. Nearby is the Mass Mutual Civic Center, an 8,000-seat arena, providing entertainment options in close proximity.
“The idea is for casino patrons to venture out into the city to go to the symphony or to the Civic Center for a show,” said Robert McCarroll, a retired city planner and longtime preservationist.
Other Urban Casinos include:
- the first to actually use phrase Urban Casino, Horseshoe Cincinnati, which opened on Monday, March 4, 2013, has closed and will be reopened under the brand Jack Cincinnati Casino in June 2016
- Horseshoe Casino Cleveland
(2012) – “originally planned as a temporary facility, but evolving into a permanent casino reusing already existing commercial property.
For decades, Springfield, the state’s third-largest city, has experienced a steady drain of jobs as factories moved or closed , with it’s current unemployment rate of almost 9 percent is about twice that of the state average. Many officials now look to the casino as the economic saviour they were hoping it would be and promised by MGM and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, said the company’s plan drew inspiration from the city’s “past and its future potential.” “We are very proud of our urban redevelopment casino model,” he said.
Here’s hoping the city of Springfield, with a new AHL Hockey franchise, a rise in entertainment options, and an improved transportation infrastructure, will rise to be a top New England destination.