Palmer Casino Backers React to Mohegan Layoffs

Backers of a casino proposed for Palmer, Massachusetts are trying to shrug off the continued financial struggles of the proposed developer, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino group.

On Thursday, Mohegan Sun casino announced layoffs of more than 300 employees and replaced its CEO. In an interview with the Day of New London, Mohegan Tribal Gaming authority chief executive Richard Etess attributed the move to the, quote “amazing decline in business we’ve experienced,” AND new competition from gambling venues like New York’s Aqueduct race track.

That comes after the company’s refinancing of some billion dollars in debt – while observers say the company has been close to bankruptcy.

“I think one of the concerns with the layoff is that it may raise the question in some people’s minds about just how financially viable they are,” said Paul Burns, president of the Palmer Town council, and an advocate for the proposed casino. Burns says the layoffs can be viewed simply as a smart business decision to streamline operations, while preparing for the big investment in western Massachusetts. And Burns says Etess’ comments about competition demonstrate the company’s need to secure a license for a western Massachusetts casino – and protect its northern flank.

“This is the strongest argument for Mohegan to get out there and secure this license. I think they should be taking some significant steps including coming up with that $400,000 payment to ensure that they demonstrate to the people of the region, Palmer included, but really those who are going to be impacted across western Massachusetts to say that they are clearly interested, they are clearly ready to compete and they are clearly able to.”

MGM resorts, which is proposing a casino for Springfield, has already paid the required state fee to enter the competition for the sole casino license TO be awarded in western Massachusetts, while Ameristar Casinos paid 16 million dollars for property  for its proposed gambling development, also in Springfield. Mohegan sun officials did not return phone calls for this story.