Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s announcement Monday that he would consider proposals to host a casino in the city is drawing mixed reaction, not only from local residents, but from leaders of two communities also vying for Western Massachusetts’ sole casino license. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, whose city already has three competing proposals for a casino, says he welcomes another that might come to Mountain Park on Holyoke’s Mount Tom. Sarno says this latest potential entry to the casino sweepstakes only ups the ante to garner the best deal from developers.
“When Ameristar originally came in (to) the city of Springfield, their proposal I believe was for $625 million. Their proposal recently came in for $910 million. So competition overall is good, we firmly believe that Springfield offers the best venue for this $1 billion economic development project.”
Palmer town councilor Paul Burns says Morse’s announcement actually endorses his town’s location as the best to host a casino. He says Morse has acknowledged that placing a casino in an urban setting like Holyoke, and by extension Springfield, could cannibalize existing businesses in the immediate area and push increased traffic into neighboring communities not equipped to handle it. Burns says Palmer’s rural setting makes those less of an issue.
“Every site has its positives and negatives. But I think that when you’re talking about adding casinos to an urban area, you increase the congestion that’s already there. And yes the Mt. Tom site is slightly off the urban center, but it’s really in an urban environment and it takes away from those existing businesses. Where the Palmer site is going to enhance business throughout that corridor of Hampden County and Worcester County. I think we have a much bigger impact area in terms of the benefits.”
And, Burns says, there’s more land available in Palmer to develop a destination resort, with existing infrastructure and access to the Mass Pike, something he adds the other sites don’t have.