Mohegan Sun, owner of Palmer site at odds

Mohegan Sun has terminated its "exclusivity agreement" with the owner of the Palmer, Mass., land where it hoped to develop a $1 billion resort casino, freeing it to negotiate with potential partners in other casino projects elsewhere in the Bay State.

At the same time, Mohegan Sun's lease of the 152-acre site "remains in full force and effect," the Connecticut casino asserted this week in a letter to Northeast Realty Associates.

Northeast objected to the casino's claims, saying the Mohegans' continued lease of the land would prevent Northeast from making it available to any other developer.

"They want to negotiate with someone else but tie up the land in Palmer," Paul Robbins, a Northeast spokesman, said. "It's like having your cake and eating it, too."

Northeast said it had referred Mohegan's notice to legal counsel.

The Palmer casino proposal was narrowly defeated in a Nov. 5 referendum, prompting a recount of votes set for Tuesday.

"It is unfortunate that Mohegan Sun is abandoning the people of Palmer just days before the recount so that it can continue to negotiate a possible deal in another locale in Massachusetts," Northeast said. "Mohegan's pursuit of a license in the Eastern Massachusetts zone is at odds with their long-held position that Palmer represents the best location for a resort casino in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It also violated the exclusivity agreement between the parties."

Earlier this week, Palmer Town Councilor Paul Burns questioned whether Mohegan Sun had talked to other parties in Massachusetts prior to the referendum. Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, responded in a statement, calling Burns' claims "patently false."

"Mohegan Sun and our team in Palmer worked tirelessly over the past five years to bring a world class facility to Palmer and the Commonwealth, invested millions of dollars into this effort, and engaged in a highly transparent process of explaining our project to the community," Brown said. "Despite the long odds that a recount might bring a different result, we have deliberately stayed the course awaiting the outcome."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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