HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) - In a news conference that was tense at moments, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse announced that he had changed his mind about bringing a resort casino to the city.
Morse, who had run for mayor in 2011 on an anti-casino platform, said that he now thinks that a casino located at Mountain Park would be a preferable option for Holyoke business. Morse said that casino gaming in western Massachusetts will be a reality, and that as such, he thinks a casino in downtown Springfield would have a "severe" impact on Holyoke.
"It is not enough to oppose a casino in our boundaries," Morse said, adding that he feels the Springfield proposals have not taken into account their effects on nearby communities, such as Holyoke.
The Mayor, who called his switch a "pivot in strategy," said that he still remains opposed to casino gambling, and does not consider the proposal a "saving grace for all of Holyoke's needs."
Holyoke voters had backed non-binding casino questions in 1995 and 2002, but there is also strong opposition to a casino in the Paper City, and Morse's conference was punctuated at times with the shouts of protestors who had gathered outside the room; one of whom had a Morse campaign sign crossed out.
One protestor called the mayor a "coward," while another yelled that he is "disappointed" in Morse.
Click here to see a Report It video of protestors gathered outside the news conference.
The Mayor said that he expects "lively debate" on the issue, and promised that the casino proposal process would be transparent.
The proposed casino would be located at Mountain Park, the site of a defunct amusement park on Mount Tom that now serves as a concert venue. Morse had rejected an earlier proposal to build a casino at the Wyckoff Country Club.
"I think it's important as mayor to look at all proposals. I looked at the Hard Rock proposal in January, I didn't like many of the components in that plan, Morse said.
"Like I said today, I think the Mountain Park plan provides us with the framework of what a good plan would look like."
Click here for video of the complete news conference.