Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tribe In The Media: Mohegans Continue Massachusetts Casino Quest

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This installment of the Tribe In The Media series is an article in The Republican on the Mohegan's continuing efforts to build a casino in Massachusetts.

Mohegan Sun still seeking Palmer casino
By Lori Stabile
The Republican
August 7, 2008

PALMER - The vice president of development for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority told the Citizen Casino Impact Study Committee Wednesday night that despite a recession within the casino industry, Mohegan Sun is still committed to a casino project in Palmer.

"The industry is experiencing a recession cycle," said Mohegan's Paul I. Brody.

"So you're not worried about coming to Palmer?" asked committee member Rocqueline E. Blazejowski.

"It's going to get better again," answered Brody.

Brody, along with representatives from JCJ Architecture in Hartford and Beals & Thomas Inc. engineering firm in Southborough, answered questions about the proposed $1.1 billion casino-entertainment project for land across from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit on Thorndike Street (Route 32).

The owner of the approximately 150 acres is Northeast Realty, which has an exclusive agreement with Connecticut-based Mohegan to develop a project there, should casino gaming become legal in Massachusetts and Palmer is selected as a gaming site.

Brody gave the nine members of the casino committee a booklet with drawings of the proposed project, as well as answers to questions posed by the former town manager nine months ago. Brody explained that because this is still in the early stages, some of the answers are still unknown.

Despite the House of Representatives voting down the governor's casino proposal, Mohegan is still moving ahead with site work on the land, and Brody expects that to be finished by the end of the month. He said he expects the casino issue to be revisited in the near future.

Access to the project would be near Shearer Street from Route 32 and there also would be a flyover from the turnpike. Emergency access would be from Breckenridge Street. Committee member Joseph Mastaslerz noted that Thorndike Street isn't wide to begin with and asked what would be done.

Engineer John Thomas, of Beals & Thomas, said they will work with the town, but said "exactly what that section will look like, I can't tell you this evening." Committee Chairman Gerald R. Chudy asked about future expansion. Brody said the site is attractive, but limited, and doesn't see a second casino being added there. He said all the building would take place at once.

Chudy also asked what would happen if it fails.

"If it fails, I don't know," Brody said. "That's like if the NFL went out of business, what would they do with Gillette Stadium?"

Brody said studies have shown the market for a Palmer casino is strong. Brody said the Palmer proposal is not about defending the market, but expanding it.

Committee member Michael J. Swiatlowski said he wanted to make sure Palmer is not signing up for "the ugly stepchild satellite casino."

Brody suggested the committee visit another Mohegan site, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., which he called "gorgeous."