Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mohegan Sun Official Talks To Massachusetts Residents

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from the Massachusetts newspaper The Republican on an event in which a Mohegan Sun official, Peter Schultz, discussed the Tribe's proposed casino in Palmer, Massachusetts:

Mohegan Sun: Palmer or bust
By Nancy H. Gonter
The Republican
September 22, 2009

WARE - A representative of Mohegan Sun, the group that wants to build a $1 billion casino off Thorndike Street in Palmer, faced questions from senior citizens Monday, telling them the company is firmly committed to the site.

Peter J. Schultz, project coordinator, also heard concerns about traffic and job preference for Palmer residents. More than 20 people attended the event at the Senior Center, some of them members of the Quaboag Valley Against Casinos, which opposes the project.

Grace A. Sheehan of Palmer, a member of the group, said she is worried about gang activity increasing in town, as well as the effect of the casino on downtown restaurants and traffic.

"I don't think it's going to help our property taxes. Once they are up they are not going to go down. And I don't think our property will be worth as much," Sheehan said.

Linda J. Francis of Palmer, said she supports casinos believes property values will go up if the casino is built.

Schultz made it clear that having a casino is far from a done deal, and even if it is sited here, it could be four years before it opens. The state Legislature is expected to take up the issue of legalizing gambling in the next few weeks.

If it is legalized, there will still be a site selection process to determine where casinos will be allowed, Schultz said.

"Mohegan Sun is committed to Palmer. If Palmer doesn't get it (a casino), we're done," Schultz said.

Schultz tried to allay concerns expressed by those at the meeting, saying that potential traffic problems and water supply issues are being studied and should be resolved at no cost to taxpayers. The casino owners also would pay for construction of an exit directly from the Massachusetts Turnpike, he said.

The Mohegan Sun proposal calls for the casino to be on 152 acres between Thorndike and Breckenridge streets. It would include a 600-room hotel and an entertainment venue and would provide 2,400 jobs once fully operational, Schultz said.

Schultz stressed that he believed many of the casino employees would come from this area because there is a large labor pool and high unemployment. He said the idea of giving Palmer residents preference would be considered.

Maria N. Thomson of Brimfield, a member of the group opposing casinos, said she believes businesses near casinos in Connecticut had lost business after the casinos opened. Thomson said the casino would increase the number of people who are addicted to gambling and who would become impoverished.

"I suggest you go down and talk directly with the mayor of Montville," said Schultz, in reference to the Mohegan Sun facility there.