Casino Players Prepare to Joust in Western Massachusetts
A casino industry player is putting down new markers in western Massachusetts - and indicating it is ready to compete with proposals already in the mix for Springfield and Westfield. Penn National Gaming is joining MGM International and Hard Rock International in what conceivably could turn into a bidding war for a 200-acre parcel in Westfield.
Westfield Mayor Daniel Knapik says he is neutral on whether a casino is the right thing for his town, and he wants his constituents to have the facts in hand before making a decision. But at the least, he adds, the industry officials he's met with show a sophisticated understanding of community needs.
"There is now at least a 20 year history of regionalized casinos that have gone into communities across America. They are complementary to the communities they operate within, they purchase form the local folks, they employ them. And it's not sucking out the lifeblood like the Atlantic City experience. Because they've learned, on a limited investment, to co-exist with the local communities."
Penn National spokesman Eric Shippers says his company shares those values. He adds, however, that the company's first choice may not be Westfield -- it's Springfield.
"Our focus remains and our desire remains to be in Springfield. And as we're continuing to focus on the Springfield market we are looking at all other options and opportunities in that general area."
Shippers says Penn National has a reputation for solid finances that could give it a leg up when seeking community support. He acknowledges, however, that one company, Ameristar International, demonstrated significant financial clout earlier this year when it purchased a $10 million site, in Springfield.