With First Phase Casino Applications In, Mohegan Sun CEO Addresses Amherst Chamber of Commerce

The applications and fees are in, and eleven companies are now officially vying for casino licenses in Massachusetts. That includes four competing for the single license in western Massachusetts. Now the state’s gaming commission will spend up to six months conducting background checks on all registered casino developers. Companies are continuing to make their case to the region. On Wednesday, the head of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun spoke to the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

CEO Mitchell Etess says his company’s proposal for a rural casino in Palmer, two towns south of Amherst, is the best for the area. Naturally, Penn National Gaming, MGM Resorts, and Hard Rock have said the same of their proposed casinos for the region. But Etess says Mohegan Sun’s Connecticut casino is a proven model in New England. 

“Let’s face it, the reason there’s gaming in Massachusetts is because the Connecticut casinos were so successful, and those are based on the rural model, not the downtown model. So we believe, at the end of the day, we’ll be able to display to everybody that we have the best ability to provide the most revenue to the commonwealth, which is what this is all about.”

Etess answered questions from chamber members on potential economic impacts of a Palmer casino and on problem gambling. Chamber executive director Tony Maroulis says he’s concerned about the casino’s access to Amherst’s student population. 

“With our large school-age population, what’s that going to mean? Will we have a lot of students going down there, going over hill and dale getting down to Palmer. Even though it’s two communities away, it’s mostly back roads.”

Though Mohegan Sun has talked about a Palmer casino since 2007, it was one of the last developers to submit its $400,000 fee and application before Tuesday’s deadline. Two other companies based in Holyoke and Chicopee, submitted requests for an application extension to the gaming commission. The commission has not yet responded to those requests.