PALMER, Mass. (WWLP) - Mohegan Sun Massachusetts and Palmer leaders announced an agreement Thursday that would have the gaming company paying the town more than $16 million each year if a casino is built.
"We have said from the very beginning that we want to win this license and we feel the best way to do that is to specifically address the legislation and what the commission is looking for and I believe this agreement that we have with the town addresses that better than any other agreement you’re going to see in the Commonwealth", says Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO, Mitchell Etess.
The host community agreement, unveiled during a news conference at the Palmer Library, also means that Mohegan Sun will pay the town $200,000 as soon as the agreement is approved by the Town Council, and a date is set for a town-wide referendum, which is has to happen between October 28 and November 27.
"My opinion the job of the town council is to pass this on to the voters. We’ve hired our experts, the town manager and the folks who were involved in this process to negotiate an agreement and now its our job to forward this to the voters", says Palmer Town Councilor Paul Burns.
Mohegan Sun is requesting a referendum on November 5, which is already election day for several cities and towns statewide.
Mohegan Sun was the last of three casino proposals in Western Massachusetts to complete their host agreement, but Palmer Town Manager Charlie Blanchard told 22News they used that to their advantage.
"Palmer is a much smaller community than either of those. The impact of this mitigation and payment is much on the town of Palmer than it is on those communities, but we certainly tried to look at the host community agreements as templates and things to be sure that we covered", says Blanchard.
Under the agreement, nearly $3 million would be paid to the town before any casino would even be built.
According to a news release sent to 22News by Mohegan Sun, the annual payments would break down to about $1,200 annually for each resident of the eastern Hampden County town.
Among other things, Palmer plans to allocate the payments toward improvement and expansion in police, fire, and EMS services, as well as road improvements, the hiring of new building and health inspectors, and a new garage for the DPW.
Click here to read the complete Host Community Agreement
Mohegan wants to build a facility costing nearly $1 billion, which, in addition to gaming space, would include two hotels and a water park. Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority head Mitchell Etess said it would be "truly transformative" for the small town.
There can only be one casino in western Massachusetts, however, and Mohegan Sun is competing for the sole western Massachusetts casino license with MGM, which proposes to build a casino in Springfield’s South End, and Hard Rock International, which wants to build on land owned by the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield.
Though Mohegan is the last of the three to unveil an agreement with its proposed host community, they were actually the first to show an interest in a western Massachusetts casino site; having purchased the land near Mass Pike Exit 8 before casino gaming was even legalized in Massachusetts.