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Mohegans considering non-gaming development in Palmer

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published November 22. 2013 1:00PM   Updated November 22. 2013 1:32PM

Mohegan Sun will consider a non-gaming development at the 152-acre site in Palmer, Mass., where it had hoped to develop a $1 billion resort casino, the gaming operator’s top executive said Friday.

“As far as Palmer goes, we’ve invested almost $25 million in the whole process, a lot of it involving the land,” Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority’s chief executive officer, said Friday. “Millions and millions has gone to the landlord. … We believe it’s a good site for development.”

Mohegan Sun signed a 99-year lease on the property in 2008.

Voters in Palmer rejected the casino proposal by 93 votes in a Nov. 5 referendum. A recount sought by Mohegan Sun and supporters of the project is scheduled for Tuesday. It is not expected to change the referendum outcome.

The Mohegan Sun Massachusetts plan included a 70,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor water park, two hotels and 300,000 square feet of retail development. Presumably, those portions of the project still could be pursued at the site, though Etess declined to discuss what the Mohegan Tribe has in mind.

“We could develop something other than gaming there,” Etess said. “It depends. We’ll have to take some time to assess what’s possible. … Everyone in Palmer liked the water park idea.”

Mohegan Sun has informed Northeast Realty Group, the owner of the property, that it was terminating its “exclusivity agreement” with Northeast, freeing the casino operator to negotiate with potential partners involved in other casino projects in Massachusetts.

Mohegan Sun has been in talks with owners of Suffolk Downs, the Boston-area race track hoping to propose a project in Revere.

Northeast Realty is free to pursue another developer of the Palmer site, Etess said, even though Mohegan Sun continues to lease it.

“They’d just have to go through us,” he said of anyone interested in the property.

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