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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Palmer gears up for casino vote

Palmer casino proponents gear up for referendum vote
By Lori Stabile, The Republican
on July 17, 2013

PALMER - Palmer casino supporters are gearing up for the vote, expected to take place in September, for the Mohegan Sun Massachusetts casino project off Thorndike Street.
On Tuesday, Springfield voters approved the host community agreement between the city and MGM Resorts International; a positive vote is needed for any casino proposal to be considered by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
A host community agreement for Palmer is expected to be completed sometime this month.
“Things are definitely ramping up in Palmer,” casino proponent Jennifer L. Baruffaldi said on Wednesday.
Baruffaldi said she has created a Facebook page, “Vote Yes for Palmer," and as of Wednesday afternoon, already had 82 members.

Baruffaldi said she was not surprised that Springfield voters supported MGM. She maintains that the Palmer site, where Mohegan Sun wants to build a casino across from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit, is the better proposal.

“We’re the only site in the state that’s rural . . . It has direct access and a safe environment. It certainly does carry the ‘wow factor’ that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is looking for,” Baruffaldi said.

She said she expects that when the vote is held in Palmer, the numbers in favor of the $1 billion casino will be higher than MGM’s. MGM's agreement was approved by a vote of 58 percent versus 42 percent against.

Palmer At-large Town Councilor Paul E. Burns congratulated Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and MGM on their victory, and said considering that Springfield twice rejected a casino, Tuesday’s results showed that the “casino debate has changed from questioning whether casinos provide a positive benefit to where they will provide the greatest benefit.”

“I am sure that each community will approve a casino. The real question, moving forward, is which proposal will provide the greatest benefits to the commonwealth. With that being the real question the answer is clear, the Palmer proposal is the strongest providing the largest developable area and the greatest ancillary development opportunity,” Burns wrote in a statement.

Burns said MGM will provide some economic development inside the south end of Springfield, but Mohegan Sun in Palmer “will be an economic development driver along the route 20 corridor from Worcester to Springfield.”

“If we truly judge this on the merits and what it can bring to the state and region as a whole, I think Palmer wins,” Burns said.

In 1997, the majority of Palmer voters - 55 percent - supported casino gaming in a nonbinding referendum. Mohegan’s project also has the backing of the Quaboag Hills Chamber of Commerce, which has stated that the project could ultimately contribute to the economic health of the Quaboag Hills region.

Hard Rock International also is proposing a casino for West Springfield. Only one casino license will be awarded in Western Massachusetts.

Iris L. Cardin, co-president of Quaboag Valley Against Casinos, said her group is working on anti-casino fliers that it will mail to residents.

Cardin said they are going to try and step up the "vote no" campaign, just like the casino proponents are “going to step it up."

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