HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) - Holyoke mayor Alex Morse changes his tune and will now entertain the idea of a casino in Holyoke.
Alex Morse ran his campaign on an anti-casino agenda, less than a month ago he published an Op-Ed piece in the local newspaper saying why he is still against a casino. Three weeks later Morse has changed his mind.
The Boston Globe is reporting that Morse will announce Monday morning that he is working to bring a casino to Holyoke. The casino would be at Mountain Park off of I-91 and run by a group of investors led by Eric Suher, owner of Mountain Park and Iron Horse Entertainment.
22News has been following this story and Mayor Morse has not returned phone calls, text messages or emails to the 22News I-Team. 22News made multiple visits to his apartment and no one answered, as City Hall was closed.
22News also went to Eric Suher's home in Holyoke on Saturday, a truck was in the driveway, but no one answered the door.
Ward 7 is where the potential casino would be built. Gordon Alexander is the city councilor for Ward 7, he told 22News he is "surprised and disappointed that the Mayor changed his mind and equally disappointed in the veil of secrecy that surrounded this decision." Alexander told 22News he wishes the Mayor had talked to the voters. Since Alexander said, Mayor Morse ran on an anti-casino platform and was elected on that platform, he is being disingenuous to the voters of Holyoke and basically saying their vote was not relevant.
Holyoke city councilor Joseph McGiverin told 22News, the key to success at this location would be the destination aspect of the casino. From parents of college students, Vermont skiers or fail foliage visits; it would give those visitors a place to stay for an extended period of time during their trips. He adds that Holyoke has approved a casino question twice, but they were simply "are you for or against a casino in Holyoke." Those votes took place in the 1990's. McGiverin says the important piece would be to acquire permits for local roads and highways; I-91, Route 141 and Route 5. McGiverin told 22News permits to make those improvements possible exist. He said there will likely also be some issues dealing with conversation in the area.
Former Mayor Elaine Pluta told 22News on Friday that she is excited to hopefully bring a casino to Holyoke.
Dan Burns, who ran against Morse told 22News that it didn't make sense for the city not to look into casinos.
The deadline for casino developers to submit their proposals to the state gaming commission is January 15th, which includes a $400,000 non-refundable application fee.
The state gaming commission will then likely choose a Western Massachusetts casino developer to award a gaming license to by February 2014.
Currently, Ameristar, Penn National and MGM are interested in building in Springfield. Mohegan Sun is interested in Palmer. Chicopee is still in talks with different developers. Now Holyoke, which does not appear to be affiliated with one major casino developer is in the running.