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Gaming Commission Denies WMass Requests for Application Extension

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BOSTON (WGGB) — The Mass. Gaming Commission has denied three requests for extensions of the application deadline from entities that had an interest in a possible western Mass. project.

Late Tuesday afternoon, just before the application deadline was reached, the gaming commission received four petitions for a waiver of the deadline and asked for an extension to file their applications.

The three western Mass. petitions were from Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette on behalf of the city, WM Development (Paper City Development) and Good Sam’s Casino, which was looking for a project in Holyoke.

Commissioner James McHugh says that there are two provisions in the legislation that would allow the board to grant extensions. The first being that there would be an extraordinary circumstance to grant the extension and that the commission has the power to modify or any part of the regulations including deadlines, so long as it doesn’t negatively impact the licensing process.

Mayor Bissonnette asked for the extension in part because he indicated that a casino developer had a downtown property “under option” and wanted to ensure they got the best possible chance.

Paper City Development indicated in their request that the on-again, off-again casino discussions in Holyoke with Mayor Alex Morse made it difficult for them to get a casino partner.

Good Sam’s was looking for a 4 to 6 month extension for a possible project in Holyoke.

After a brief discussion on each of three western Mass. petitions, the commission held a separate vote on each, and each time unanimously voted 5-0 to deny the extension requests.

In response to that decision, Paper City Development Managing Partner, Joe Lashinger gave ABC40 News the following statement:

“We respect the opinion of the MGC. Given our three years and seven-figure investment in Holyoke we owed this effort to our supporters. After Mayor Morse’s initial rejection of a Hard Rock Paper City Development for Holyoke, we worked  hard to find other sites in Western Massachusetts. When Mayor Morse restarted the casino issue in Holyoke, even so late in the process last November, we had an obligation to return to Holyoke. We added to our proposal of the Wyckoff Country Club site, including the optioning of 17 acres in Downtown and an important co-development venture with the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club of their Mt. Tom site for an environmental recreational facility – an alliance that would preserve the HB&G’s mission statement in the city. We are sorry for the HB&G, and for those people in Holyoke that wanted this economic development. The people of Holyoke never had the opportunity to hear our plans at the Mayor’s December 21st public presentation date as publicized. We feel badly for the people of Holyoke who want an opportunity to vote either for or against a casino proposal for their city. The Mayor as he stated in his letter today to the MGC is the sole voice on this despite the City Council’s vote Tuesday to place the question on the ballot.  We sincerely wish the Mayor well in his decision to cultivate a different arts and cultural economy in Holyoke. Hopefully those efforts will result in the $20 – $22 million in tax revenue and $2000 dollars in residential property tax reduction for homeowners that our proposal would have brought to the city according to tax experts and Holyoke’s Treasurer and City Assessor.”

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse who had written a letter to the gaming commission opposing Paper City’s request for an extension said Thursday afternoon he was pleased by the gaming commission’s action.

So right now there are four Western Massachusetts casino proposals. MGM and Penn National in Springfield, Mohegan Sun in Palmer, and Hard Rock International for the Big E in West Springfield.

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WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.
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