EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

March 5, 2013

Pitch in Palmer: Mohegan Sun looks to rural Mass.

PALMER, Mass. (AP) — Officials from Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun were headed to Massachusetts on Monday to offer more details about their proposal to build a $600 million casino project a couple miles outside Springfield.

A public forum with Mohegan Sun officials was planned for Monday evening at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Mohegan Sun wants to build a luxury hotel, resort and gambling facility on 152 acres in Palmer. The proposal is one of four contenders for the state’s lone casino gambling license for western Massachusetts.

The others are two casino projects proposed in Springfield and one in West Springfield.

The Mohegan project is more expansive than the other proposals, none of which is planned for sites larger than 38 acres. The Mohegan Sun’s project would be built in a rural area just off the Massachusetts Turnpike, while the two Springfield projects are pitched as a way to revitalize that city’s downtown. The West Springfield project is proposed for a portion of the Eastern States Exposition site.

Opponents have said the Palmer project will too drastically change the small town, and worry about crime and social ills related to compulsive gambling.

But Mohegan Sun has said its proposal could bring as many as 3,000 permanent jobs to the region. It also argued the that kind of the rural destination resort casino it’s planning in Palmer has already proven its appeal in the New England market with Mohegan Sun’s success in southeastern Connecticut.

Meanwhile, it appeared that the state and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe may be moving closer to finalizing a revised casino compact. The tribe has proposed a resort casino in Taunton.

Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that officials from his administration and representatives of the tribe discussed a framework for a new compact with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington last week. Patrick said the meeting was “pretty positive,” but that some issues still needed to be resolved.

A compact the governor signed with the Mashpee last year was approved by the Legislature but later rejected by federal officials, who said the state was seeking too high a share of the tribe’s gambling revenues.

Patrick does not plan to submit a new compact to lawmakers until he’s confident the Bureau of Indian Affairs will approve it.

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