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Holyoke Mayor Now Shuts The Door To Casino Developers

Alex Morse

The mayor of Holyoke Massachusetts has changed his mind, again, on the casino issue. Mayor Alex Morse’s surprise decision  cuts the competition for the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts.  WAMC”s Pioneer Valley News Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

   In another stunning switch, Mayor Alex Morse announced Thursday that he once again opposes any casino development in Holyoke.  The change came less than three weeks after Morse had angered many of his political supporters by announcing he would open the door to casino developers.

   Morse said $25,000 fees that had been paid to the city by two developers will be refunded. One company had looked to build a casino on a golf course . A second casino was proposed by the owner of an outdoor concert venue.  Both sites are located along Interstate 91.

   This now leaves Springfield and Palmer as the only locations in western Massachusetts with active casino projects.  Casino developers must file applications and pay a non refundable $400,000 fee to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by January 15th in order to be considered for a casino license.

   Morse was elected, at the age of 22, one of the youngest mayors in the state’s history, last year. He defeated incumbent Elaine Pluta who supported a casino development.  Angry casino opponents showed up at Holyoke City Hall when Morse held a press conference on November 26 to announce he was no longer opposed to a casino. They shouted “ liar” and  “ traitor” as Morse spoke.

   Thursday, Morse apologized.

   Morse said he remains concerned about the economic impact on Holyoke if a casino is built in Springfield, just 15 minutes away.  Morse is planning to hold a summit meeting Monday in Holyoke with other area municipal officials  to discuss the regional impact of a western Massachusetts casino.

   Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said scheduling conflicts will prevent him,  and anyone else in his administration from attending Monday’s meeting in Holyoke.  Sarno said the meeting is premature

   In contrast to Holyoke, Sarno rolled out the red carpet to casino developers almost a year ago. The city has crafted a selection process to get developers to compete against each other to win the city’s support.

   MGM and Penn National Gaming have proposed resort casinos in different parts of downtown Springfield. Both projects  have price tags in the area of $800 million.

   Mohegan Sun has long proposed a casino on land in Palmer just off  an interchange to the Mass Pike.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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