The competition for a single casino license in Western Massachusetts continues to intensify, with MGM Resorts International formally entering the race yesterday. The company has partnered with local developer David J. Callahan, who owns land in an area neighboring Brimfield and Warren. The site is just east of the proposed Palmer casino.
Certainly MGM hopes to get a more positive reception than that experienced by Steve Wynn in Foxboro last month in his ambitious plans for an Eastern Massachusetts casino license. Officials and residents in that town are against the project. MGM chairman and CEO James J. Murren indicated that the company will be canvassing local residents about the project, to ensure their acceptance before proceeding.
To ease residents’ fear about traffic, the proposed Rolling Hills Resort would be accessible only through a new ramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike. While those details are still to be worked out, no doubt the idea will draw the ire of potential local casino customers, who would currently have to pay for the privilege since the Mass Pike has tolls in that area. And the Pike already gets packed on summer weekends – I know, I drive that area regularly. It isn’t a pleasant experience.
In addition to the Palmer proposal, led by Connecticut operator Mohegan Sun (whose debt troubles have been well documented in recent weeks), there are proposals in Springfield and Holyoke. The entire region was hard-hit by tornadoes last summer, a relative rarity in this part of the country, and a casino would help restore revenues diminished by ruined property and also create jobs. Holyoke, north of Springfield, is being studied by Hard Rock International, while Ameristar Casinos has targeted Springfield. However, new Holyoke mayor Alex Morse is against a casino.