Mohegan Sun promotes casino in Mass.
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Mohegan Sun promised thousands of new jobs if it's proposed casino for western Massachusetts is approved, but residents gave the idea mixed reviews over whether it would rejuvenate the area or harm its small town charm.
As Massachusetts lawmakers weigh whether to legalize new forms of gambling, Mohegan Sun held the first of a series of forums Tuesday to promote its proposed casino in Palmer. Mohegan officials showed a video reminding residents of the region's manufacturing heyday and the subsequent loss of major employers.
"This project will not end up in western Massachusetts, folks, unless it has regional support," said Paul Brody, vice president of development for Mohegan Sun.
The project would include 3,000 slot machines, table games and poker, a 600-room hotel and spa, stores and restaurants.
Mohegan Sun, which operates one of two casinos in Connecticut, says the Palmer casino would create about 1,000 construction jobs and 2,500 to 3,000 permanent jobs, generate tax revenue and help tourism.
Angela Miguel, a 32-year-old Palmer resident who works in mall security, said she worries about the traffic impact in a town that still has horse carriage rides. She also expressed concerns that outsiders would take advantage of the small town.
"I think there is going to be a lot of problems with it," Miguel said. "Some people don't even lock their doors still."
But Miguel acknowledged the new jobs and expressed support with reservations.
Norberto Garcia, a 53-year-old police officer in Springfield, had no reservations. He cited the new jobs.
"I'm 100 percent for it," Garcia said.
Bruce Stanforth, a 48-year-old Amherst resident who is a portfolio manager, said he goes to the Connecticut casinos.
"That is tax revenue and business revenue going to a different state that really should be here in Massachusetts," Stanforth said.
Stanforth said he has watched a slow but steady decline of Springfield and other cities in the region. He said he would prefer high tech jobs, but believes a casino could help the area.
Emmaladd Shepherd, co-president of Quaboag Valley Against Casinos, said the Palmer project would hurt local businesses and lead to more problem gambling. She said casinos make 90 percent of their profits off 10 percent of gamblers.
"The money they will be making will be on the backs of our neighbors," Shepherd said.
Shepherd said there is a need for an unbiased study of the effects of casinos.
But Brody said only 1 to 2 percent of the population are problem gamblers. He said Mohegan Sun is a large contributor to treatment programs and provides information on every slot machine to help those with gambling problems.
The first major casino hearing of the legislative session is planned Thursday.
The town of Palmer has considered the casino idea before. Voters approved a nonbinding referendum in the 1990s that called for a casino there.
Copyright 2008 Associated Press