Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tribe Discusses Possible Casino With Palmer, Mass. Residents

By Ken Davison

Mohegan tribal representatives met with citizens of the western Massachusetts town of Palmer yesterday to discuss plans for a proposed casino and to address citizen concerns about traffic, public safety and the effects on property values. The meeting with the Citizen Casino Impact Study Group was held in the Palmer public library.

The Tribe is partnering with Northeast Realty in seeking one of three casinos proposed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The state legislature has yet to approve the measure but gathering local support would be a crucial step in the event casino gambling is legalized.

The proposed $1 billion project plans for 4,000 slot machines and 150 table games on a 164,000 square-foot gaming space in addition to a 600-room hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail space. Northeast Realty owns 150 acres across from the Rt. 32 turnpike exit and has an option for another 80 acres adjacent to the proposed casino property.

Public safety concerns were addressed by noting that hundreds of cameras inside and outside the casino would monitor the public. One committee member asked if the casino would pay for home-owners taxes and a tribal spokesman said he could not discuss that issue with the group. The tribe said a “fly-over” exit ramp could be built, similar to the one at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, to help alleviate traffic problems.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is proposing what some call a “fourth” casino in the state because of its plans to seek approval through a route that is separate from the governor’s plan. The Mashpees, partnering with Len Wolman and Sol Kerzner, are asking the U.S. Department of Interior to approve a tribal casino on reservation land.

Both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut would feel a sharp impact if Massachusetts legalizes casino gambling. Massachusetts residents reportedly make up about a quarter of the gamblers at both of the Connecticut Indian casinos.