The casino legislation in Massachusetts that now awaits the signature of Governor Deval Patrick would allow for one gambling hotel-resort complex in the Western part of the state. Developers have been scrambling to stake a claim in the area. Now the field seems to have settled, at four major players.
Earlier this week, the Ameristar casino company announced it had signed a legal agreement to purchase the vacant Westinghouse manufacturing complex in Springfield for $16 million. But that doesn't necessarily mean Ameristar will be the company that gets to put a casino in Western Mass.
"There's quite a lot of things that need to happen before the first dice is rolled or the first slot machine is pulled, but the key is to get the ball started and I think that's what's exciting about what we're seeing now."
Mitchell Etess is CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. In addition to its Connecticut resort, the casino company has had a storefront office in Palmer, Massachusetts for more than two years. Etess says the company is also leasing land in Palmer.
"Mohegan Sun has been interested in Western Massachusetts for years, where we've been talking to the local community and speaking with them and answering their questions. We've had several community conversations. We have the premiere name in gaming in the Northeast and we know we'd be an excellent partner for a community."
Developers in Holyoke say they still plan to build on the 100-acre Wykoff Country Club with Hard Rock International, which owns restaurant/cafes and casino resorts around the world. And Eric Shippers, spokesman for Penn National Gaming, says that company is narrowing down options for a site in the area and is hoping to make an announcement soon.
But even once the legislation is enacted, developers still face a number of hurdles. Those include approval from local residents and A new state gaming commission, along with an $85 million licensing fee.