PALMER, Mass. (WWLP) - With the state's casino deadline looming (January 15th), there are at least three casino developers who will attempt to win the Western Massachusetts casino license.
22News found out that one major local investor has his money in two of those projects.
The 22News I-Team obtained a series of emails dating back to August between lawyers for the Northeast Gaming Group - Mohegan Sun Palmer's local investors and Peter Picknelly - Penn National's major local investor. The Northeast Gaming Group claims that Picknelly is still financially involved in their project.
Mohegan Sun's casino proposal in Palmer and Penn National's proposal in Springfield are separated by 20 miles, but linked together by one man. Peter Picknelly. A series of emails obtained by the 22News I-Team shows that Picknelly invested $500,000 with the Northeast Gaming Group. That is the group of local investors with ties to Mohegan Sun in Palmer. Stephen Spelman is an attorney representing the Northeast Gaming Group.
"What Northeast Group wants Mr. Picknelly to do is live up to his obligations under his investment.
Under Massachusetts law he has a duty of good faith and fair dealing. We're asking him to live up to that", says Attorney Spelman of Egan, Flanagan and Cohen, P.C.
Emails show that Peter Picknelly has been trying to get his $500,000 back from the Northeast Gaming Group since August.
"Following that he transferred or attempted to transfer his interest to a business associate of his in November of last year", says Attorney Spelman.
Peter Picknelly refused an interview but did send 22News this statement. In part it reads, the contract I signed doesn't contain a single word that limits my participation in other business ventures, gaming or otherwise.
Picknelly has since partnered with Penn National in Springfield's North End. The casino developer is standing behind Picknelly. We are well aware of the legal claims being made by Northeast Gaming Group. We find the claims to be without any legal merit whatsoever.
Spelman told 22News Picknelly has been working with the group in Palmer for five years and this disagreement has the potential to be settled in court.
"Unfortunately if Mr. Picknelly fails to live up to his obligations to Northeast, Northeast will have to seriously consider moving forward in superior court to seek the relief that it is entitled to", says Attorney Spelman.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission told 22News they do not have an opinion on this situation and they hope it gets worked out locally.
Below is the full statement from Peter Picknelly & Penn National Gaming:
Statement from Peter Picknelly:
"Long before the legislature passed legislation, I did explore an opportunity with Northeast Gaming Group, as did many others. However, when the situation changed, I exercised my right to leave the project. I understand the transformational impact a casino could have on the city that I call home, and where my family has located our business for the past 80 years, and so I wanted to focus my efforts on Springfield.
The facts in this matter are simple. I was only an investor in the Palmer deal. I was never any type of partner or principal in the project nor did I take part in any of their planning. The contract I signed doesn't contain a single word that limits my participation in other business ventures, gaming or otherwise. In any case, and to further ease any concerns, I have since formally terminated my relationship with Northeast Gaming Group and, have transferred any financial interest arising from my investment to a third party.
The legal assertions being made by Northeast Gaming Group are completely frivolous and smack of desperation. These claims are being made by an operator that is on the outside looking in, and whose primary objective is to protect their declining operations in Connecticut by preventing Springfield from hosting a successful casino. Their allegations should be viewed in that context."
Statement from Eric Schippers, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at Penn National Gaming:
"We are well aware of the legal claims being made by Northeast Gaming Group, Inc. about our partner Peter Picknelly. We have thoroughly reviewed the matter and the underlying agreement, and find the claims to be without any legal merit whatsoever."