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Sun's Palmer project on track, officials say

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Officials with Mohegan Sun Massachusetts announced Tuesday they expect to wrap up an agreement with Palmer town officials in July and submit their more than $775 million casino project to a September referendum.

Required as part of the casino-licensing process, the "host community agreement" establishes plans for mitigating the project's effects.

"Palmer has been welcoming, supportive and motivated throughout this process," said Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. "The host community agreement is important to establishing an effective and cooperative working relationship with the town, and a milestone that will enable us to move forward with a referendum vote."

Charlie Blanchard, Palmer's town manager, confirmed Mohegan Sun Massachusetts' timetable.

Chief among the items being negotiated as part of the agreement, Blanchard said, is the casino's plan for dealing with traffic in Palmer, where Mohegan Sun Massachusetts would be built on 152 acres off Exit 8 of Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike.

"It's the biggest topic on people's minds," Blanchard said.

The completed agreement must be made available to the public 60 days before the referendum.

Paul Burns, a Palmer town councilor and casino advocate, said Mohegan Sun Massachusetts' announcement was welcome news.

"(It) clearly positions Mohegan Sun and the Palmer project back in the forefront of the race for the sole Western Mass Casino License," Burns said. "While other communities have come late to the process, Palmer has worked diligently over the years to understand the issues. As this process moves forward, the advantages of the Palmer site for truly regional economic development, strong job growth and significant revenue growth will become clearer and clearer."

Also pursuing the one western Massachusetts casino license to be awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission are MGM Resorts International of Las Vegas and Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing, Pa., both of which have proposed projects in Springfield; and Orlando, Fla.-based Hard Rock International, which would build one in West Springfield.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced Tuesday his city will not hold a casino referendum June 25, as had been hoped.

Connecticut's other casino also made an announcement Tuesday in connection with a Massachusetts casino proposal.

FCX Massachusetts, the corporate entity behind Foxwoods Massachusetts, said it has found a location for an office location in Milford, where it plans to partner on the development of a $1 billion resort casino.

"Working with a Milford Realtor, we have found an office location that we feel will best serve our needs, which is to inform the community of our plans and answer inquiries," Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and chief executive officer, said. "We have signed papers, anticipate moving in shortly and look forward to opening our doors very soon."

The Foxwoods Massachusetts project is one of three vying for a license in northeastern Massachusetts.


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