The mayor of Holyoke Massachusetts earlier this week, shockingly, opened the door to a casino development in his city. Now a plan to build a resort casino on a golf course is being revived. But is Holyoke too late in the casino game in western Massachusetts? WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Almost ten months after newly elected Mayor Alex Morse almost literally slammed the door of his city hall office on their casino proposal, Paper City Development Company managing partner Joe Lashinger has asked for another meeting with the mayor.
Lashinger’s group, partnered at the time with Hard Rock International, first proposed building a resort casino on the Wyckoff Country Club in 2010. People in the middle class neighborhood of single family homes near the golf course opposed the project. They rallied around Morse.. a 22 year old recent college graduate and first time candidate for elected office. Morse defeated incumbent Mayor Elaine Pluta, who supported the casino development.
Shortly after taking office, Morse met with Lashinger’s group.
Lashinger won’t be back with Hard Rock International this time, as the casino industry giant has moved on. He said they are looking for other financial backers.
Morse, during a news conference where he attempted to explain his pivot on the casino issue, as he was heckled by casino opponents, bitter that Morse had turned on them, said he is willing to listen to all casino proposals.
Holyoke businessman Eric Suher is looking to develop a resort casino on Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue, not far from the Wyckoff Country Club. Both sites are along Interstate 91.
The race to develop casinos in Springfield and in Palmer is well down the road. Casino operators face a January 15 deadline to pay a $400,000 non refundable application fee with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. David Panagore, a former economic development officer with the city of Springfield, who is being brought in as a consultant in Holyoke, says its not too late for Holyoke.
Morse said his change on the issue of casino development stems from his concern that when a casino is built in western Massachusetts, especially if it were to be built in Springfield, where three projects are proposed it would have a detrimental effect on Holyoke.
Morse and members of his economic development team, and officials from the city of Springfield are together on a fact find trip this week to Bethlehem Pennsylvania to learn about that city’s casino development experience.