PALMER, Mass. (WGGB) — Thursday afternoon the Massachusetts State Senate voted 24-14 in favor of a bill that would bring one of three casinos in the state, to Western Massachusetts.
“It’s been a long road,” said Senator Michael Knapik of Westfield. “It’s taken over 15 years to get to this point, but we would expect in two to three weeks to have a bill on the governor’s desk.”
Three out-of-four State Senators from Western Mass voted in favor of the bill. One of them was Michael Knapik — who says that he feels the bill contains ways to help local communities.
“Built into the plans are ways to help a local community or host community deal with issues like traffic, deal with issues of ancillary development problems,” said Knapik on Friday afternoon.
But the bill isn’t a law just yet. A conference committee of three house members and three senators will finalize the bill within the next two weeks. Then it will be up to Governor Patrick to sign it into state law, which he says he will likely do.
Palmer is one of the proposed destinations for a casino, and residents are still split on the project being in their backyard.
“Mainly I think its going to be a lot of traffic,” said Fredrick Waldron of Monson.
“We do need the jobs,” said Tom Shannon — a resident of Palmer. “If they hold true to their promises where its gonna help economic development I’m all for it. But if its the same model that’s in Atlantic City, then I’m against it.”
Opponents believe a casino may have a negative effect on small businesses and create gambling problems. However, Community organizer Robert Young of Palmer is excited about the prospect of new jobs for the area.
“You can’t legislate to the masses what they can or can’t do — per se — when it comes to discretionary spending,” said Young — a spokesperson for Palmer Businesses for a Palmer Casino. “We’re cautiously optimistic but as each step goes forward in the process we get a little bit more excited.”