Western Mass. group in Mohegan Sun's corner

A western Massachusetts business group that promotes tourism and economic growth in 15 towns has endorsed Mohegan Sun's plan to develop a destination resort casino in Palmer, one of four projects competing for the one casino license to be awarded in the region.

Mohegan Sun announced Thursday it has the backing of the Quaboag Hills Chamber of Commerce.

"We are thrilled to announce our endorsement of the Mohegan Sun project in Palmer," Leonard Weake, the chamber's president, said in a statement. "Palmer's access to a major highway and proximity to four other states make it a perfect location for a destination resort casino. This development project will contribute to increased economic activity around the Mohegan Sun site in Palmer and throughout the Quaboag Hills region."

The Palmer-based chamber represents businesses in Belchertown, Brimfield, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holland, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Palmer, Spencer, Wales, Ware, Warren and West Brookfield.

Mohegan Sun said it hopes to work with the chamber to promote the casino operator's loyalty program, which encourages casino patrons to visit locally owned businesses.

Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, hailed the partnership.

"Mohegan Sun has always been committed to cultivating economic development in the regions where we operate," he said. "This endorsement shows that we are already working closely with local businesses in western and central Massachusetts. We thank the Quaboag Hills Chamber for their endorsement and continued support and we look forward to working with them."

Mohegan Sun filed its application for a license last week, saying it had entered into a strategic partnership with Brigade Capital Management, which it described as "a $12 billion, New York-based investor-advisor."

Also seeking the western Massachusetts resort casino license are MGM Resorts International of Las Vegas and Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing, Pa., both of which have proposed projects for Springfield, and Orlando, Fla.-based Hard Rock International, which would develop a site in West Springfield.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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