Springfield, Mass. City Council has voted unanimously to extend a ban of new pawn shops and second-hand jewelry dealers in the area, WAMC Northeast Public Radio reports.
The council implemented the ban in 2014 when MGM Resorts officially applied for a license to operate a casino in the city.
Three years earlier, Massachusetts residents voted to change the state constitution to allow gaming, creating three casino licenses and one for a slots parlor. The MGM Springfield opened its doors in 2018.
Supporters of a casino in the city hoped it would bring jobs and much-needed economic rejuvenation. In the year before the vote, 26.8% of the population of Springfield were below the poverty line, according to the US Census Bureau (USCB).
But others worried that a big casino would have a negative effect on the city’s large low-income community.
Such resorts are usually located away from city centers. But the MGM Springfield was to be built in downtown Springfield. City councilors were concerned the new casino would bring an avalanche of businesses that preyed on stricken gamblers.
Springfield continues to have a disproportionate share of pawn shops and secondhand dealers when compared with other Gateway Cities across the Commonwealth,” City Councilor Mike Fenton told WAMC Wednesday. That’s why he believes the ban should remain in place.
There are six pawn shops and 30 secondhand dealers in the city, which has a population of around 154,000. In nearby Worcester, with a population of around 185,000, there are four pawn shops and 20 secondhand stores.
Pandemic Skewed Data
In 2014, the council also implemented a system that requires pawn shops to keep electronic records, including photographs, of items they accepted. Fenton said this had been successful in reducing crime and curtailing the secondary market in stolen goods.
But the city council hasn’t been able to do a proper case study on whether the casino’s arrival increased the number of pawn shop transactions, because data has been skewed by the pandemic. The casino closed for four months in 2020 and reopened with reduced capacity.
Extending the moratorium on pawn shops for another three years will allow the council to gather more data, which it hopes will answer that question.
The good news is that the MGM Springfield has not had a disastrous impact on the city’s poverty levels. But neither has it dramatically improved them. According to the USCB, poverty levels in Springfield in July 2021 were at 25.5%, down 1.3% from 2011, when households were still feeling the pinch of the Great Recession.
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