Could a Casino Have a Future in Holyoke?

One of the most divisive issues of the mayoral race in Holyoke was casino development. Incumbent mayor Elaine Pluta was in favor of bringing a casino to town, but the winner — new mayor-elect, Alex Morse — says he's opposed. New England Public Radio's Anne Mostue reports on what that might mean for the future.

If pending legislation is passed and a casino is permitted in Western Mass, developers in three municipalities – Holyoke, Palmer and Springfield – are preparing to compete for a license. Earlier this month, the Hard Rock company – which has restaurants, hotels and casinos around the world,  announced it will join with Paper City Development to develop and manage a casino resort on the 100-acre Wyckoff Country Club off Interstate 91 in Holyoke. Tony Cignoli, a partner with Paper City Development, says that even though Alex Morse is opposed to a casino, he's indicated willingness to speak with the developers.

"Hard Rock has not really rolled out what their plans are but we hope to be able to present those to the mayor-elect and see what he might think of them."

Morse could not be immediately reached for comment but during his campaign he said he was more interested in job creation from a high-tech computing center and the emerging artist's community downtown.

"I am opposed to a casino in the city of Holyoke, I think it's bad economic policy. I've been meeting with business owners big and small throughout the past several months and what I hear time and time again is that casinos will hurt local business. It will draw money out of the local economy and put it in the hands of a few folks in charge of a casino."

Ultimately, it will be up to the residents of Holyoke. Western New England University political science professor Timothy Vercellotti says the "Not in my backyard" sentiment may have brought many Holyoke voters to the polls on Election Day, but if the issue becomes a referendum, then a campaign could change some minds.