Opinion: Is a later last call for MGM really a good idea?

7/27/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: July

So what do you think about idea of MGM Springfield being able to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., to people who are gambling? Good idea or not?

As a former bartender, I know the supervision of alcohol sales is not always an easy matter. I have no doubt that a company such as MGM has it down to a science, though.

My personal concern, though, is whether or not an extended serving time will give the casino an additional edge – above and beyond a state of the art $1 billion entertainment facility already has – over any other establishment in the region. The only club in Springfield that will have a feature MGM does not have will be the Mardi Gras.

Is it fair to tell one business you can serve until 4 a.m. as long as people are laying their money down on the gaming tables and tell a bar that has been here for years that they must shut down at 2 a.m. as always? Do we really need in Western Massachusetts the legal ability to drink in a public place until almost sunrise?

I posed that question on Facebook and here are some of the responses:

Paul Kubera: “If they can afford the staff, security and liability, nothing wrong here. Hope some early breakfast opportunities happen for local business

Paul Ryan: “An equal playing field.”

Christina Cavanaugh: “I think it should be the same for all businesses”

Amaad River: “Yes! But concerned about the bar hopping that may ensue.”

Ron Lavoie: “Each city should be able to decide for all license holders. But there should be one closing time – not two.  All Massachusetts cities should be allowed to extend their licenses hours until 4 a.m. Not all would.”

Cecilia Calabrese: “Follow the money. If the Commonwealth and city of Springfield will benefit financially from serving alcohol ‘til 4.m. it will happen. I've been very public about my opposition to legalization of gambling anyway for a long time.  I’ve never wanted to be more wrong about an issue. I hope the developers of MGM do a good job and make lots of money for themselves and for the people of Massachusetts.”

Laurie Cavanaugh Bobskill: “I think they should be required to provide free bed, breakfast and Alka Seltzer.”

Rudi Scherff: “Most local bars for the over thirty crowd close before 2. I don't think that this is a good idea. Drinking (as I have found) loosens inhibitions – instead of going home let's grab a drink and up our betting.”

Ellen Moorhouse: “I feel very torn about this in general. If the casino gets to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., then all area businesses and clubs should be able to as well. However, I'm not naive to the increased costs associated with this – police presence, DUI checkpoints, potential property crime from drunk people, etc.

“On the other hand, this will draw more people, and more money as a destination – which is the ultimate goal of opening the MGM casino, I’m assuming? If we’re open until 4 a.m., and Connecticut is only open until 2, we may begin to cover some of the gambling dollars going south to Connecticut. With exciting shows and activities at MGM, this could really boost the region and achieve the desired effect, but I’m wary of the personal cost. If people are going to drink and gamble, they are going to do it anyways – no matter the time of day – right? I feel very conflicted. LOL.

“In my opinion, we can’t have this conversation without talking about Happy Hour, either. I'm sad to keep going to Enfield for snacks and drink specials – what’s wrong with some business friendly happy hour legislation? But then I know this goes hand in hand with transportation conversations, too. With no way to study rail service, and PVTA funding getting cut – how will all of these drunk people get home?”

These were some great responses and I thank everyone who offered their opinion. Let’s see what will happen in the next year. As we grow closer to the opening in September 2018, many more such details will have to be settled. It will be fascinating to see how all of it unfolds.

As I frequently say to friends, the MGM story is the best present I’ve received for a while as a journalist. It just keeps giving!

Ellen brought up a great point: What about happy hours? Perhaps that would be a way to help bars and restaurants. What do you think?

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