BOSTON The chief executive of Mohegan Sun said Monday the company is adding as much as $175 million in amenities to its proposal to build a casino outside Springfield, citing fierce competition to win western Massachusetts’ lone casino license.
Mitchell Etess wouldn’t give specifics about the enhancements to the now $775 million project proposed for Palmer, adding he didn’t want to tip off rival companies that are already offering similarly costly proposals.
“I think we all need to realize, this is a competition,” he told more than 200 residents at a public forum in Palmer.
“We’re not just fooling around,” he added, and said residents would know the details well before a planned referendum on the project later this year.
Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun wants to build a luxury hotel, resort and gambling facility on 152 acres in Palmer. Three casino licenses are being granted in Massachusetts, one each for three geographic regions, and Mohegan Sun’s proposal is one of four contenders for the state’s lone casino gambling license for western Massachusetts.
The others are MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming, who are competing to win the backing of the city of Springfield, and a proposal by Hard Rock International in West Springfield. Both Springfield proposals carry price tags in the $800 million range, with the West Springfield proposal estimated at $700 million.
“We’ve always known Massachusetts would be a fiercely competitive environment,” Etess said.
Some Palmer residents complained Monday about a lack of disclosure at the forum on issues including how the casino would affect traffic and other services in the town of about 12,000.
“It’s very important that we don’t get into an eternal gridlock in this town,” said resident Paul Wisnewski, 75.
Mary Maloney got into a brief exchange with Mohegan Sun officials after she questioned whether they had a plan for the property if its gambling operations failed.
“I think (the casino) belongs in Springfield,” Maloney said after the meeting. “I think Palmer can’t contain it.”
But Etess said Palmer was a prime location, because it’s accessible to customers from around New England and New York.
Mohegan Sun development coordinator Paul Brody said each stage of the project, including mitigation for traffic and enhancing services that would be stretched by a new casino, was being carefully planned out.
“We will succeed in Massachusetts because we choose to roll out a product here that in anybody’s crystal ball is as certain to succeed as anything you can imagine,” he told the audience.
Resident Tim Irving, 34, said he’s eager for the project to arrive, saying it will boost housing values, bring jobs and increase tax revenues that can improve the schools.
Added resident Larry Jasak, “It’s all about jobs. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. And this is the great location for it.”
The Mohegan Sun project is far more expansive than the other western Massachusetts proposals, none of which is planned for sites larger than 38 acres.
The Mohegan Sun’s project would be built in a rural area just off the Massachusetts Turnpike, while the two Springfield projects are pitched as a way to revitalize that city’s downtown. The West Springfield project is proposed for a portion of the Eastern States Exposition site.