Recount confirms defeat of Mass. casino proposal
PALMER, Mass. (AP) — A recount on Tuesday confirmed the defeat of Mohegan Sun’s bid for a resort casino in the town of Palmer, officially leaving MGM Resorts International as the only remaining applicant for the single western Massachusetts resort casino license.
The recount conducted at the town library on Tuesday showed the proposal coming up short by 94 votes out of about 5,200 cast in the Nov. 5 referendum. The original count showed a 93-vote difference.
Casino supporters had acknowledged prior to the recount that there was little hope of reversing the margin.
Mohegan Sun had already announced that it planned to seek “non-gaming” development on the 152-acre site that it leased in Palmer, and the company was also among those discussing a possible partnership with Suffolk Downs on a casino in Revere.
In a statement, Mohegan Sun said it accepted the results of the recount.
“For more than five years we were committed to Palmer and believed in our project’s ability to deliver a promising future with more than $16 million in annual revenue, thousands of new jobs, new opportunities for small business and economic development throughout the region,” the statement said.
MGM has proposed a $1 billion casino that won approval from Springfield voters in July. But the company must still clear a background check by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, with a “suitability” hearing scheduled for Dec. 9.
Mohegan Sun has not commented on discussions with Suffolk Downs.
The thoroughbred racetrack, which is seeking the eastern Massachusetts casino license, has announced plans to shift its proposed facility entirely into Revere, after voters in East Boston rejected the casino in a referendum. The commission has not yet authorized the move.
Suffolk Downs cut ties with its previous operating partner, Caesars Entertainment, after some red flags that turned up during the commission’s background check of Caesars.
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, confirmed last week that Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun was among the companies with which it had held discussions, and said a new partner would likely be announced by the end of the month. Wynn Resorts is the only other applicant for the eastern Massachusetts license still standing.
Word of Mohegan Sun’s possible interest in Suffolk Downs angered many casino backers in Palmer in the weeks after the referendum, with some accusing the company of abandoning the town even before Tuesday’s recount was held.
The group Palmer Businesses for a Palmer Casino said it planned to organize a bus trip to an upcoming meeting of the commission in Boston to ask the panel to investigate whether Mohegan Sun was engaged in talks with Suffolk Downs prior to the Nov. 5 vote, which the company has strongly denied.
Casino supporters have also complained that by continuing to lease the property, Mohegan Sun is effectively slamming the door on any potential gambling proposals from other developers in the future.