State senators pass the casino bill Thursday. The 24-14 vote comes with implications that could change this state forever. Western Mass is on the brink of having a casino, and the state will be home to two more and a slot parlor. Two Western Mass towns are front-runners for the casino site.
"In Massachusetts, you never know when it comes to politics," says political analyst Tony Cignoli. "Now that the senate has passed this particular version and the house has passed its, and they're so close together. The thought is the governor will have this signed and done by Oct. 30 or Oct. 31."
So if Cignoli is right, gaming will be a go.
"Now the beauty contest, so to speak, really starts," he says.
Holyoke is in the game and it's seeking out the best developer for Western Mass. Meanwhile, another gaming hopeful is Connecticut-based casino Mohegan Sun. Mohegan Sun has its chips in the town of Palmer. Town council president Paul Burns says Palmer will be the best place here to play.
"Our location is going to enhance the economic developments opportunities. It's go to enhance the revenue to the state," Burns says. "It's going to come to a point where you want a casino in an attractive environment where you want to feel safe. I think Palmer is that site."
But Holyoke is the dark horse. While the city may be trailing in the gaming race, Cignoli, who has a big stake in Holyoke's casino plans, says the group is close to leveling the playing field.
"I think what you'll see in the course of the next few weeks, new players will come out, some major names that we've never seen before. I would dare say that Holyoke will have a unique announcement probably in the next couple of weeks."
Palmer is ready to break-ground if the gaming commissioners were to approve the Palmer site for a casino, according to Burns and Mohegan Sun officials. Holyoke is still looking for a developer. The state is looking for a $500 million dollar investment and that's money no one has dropped just yet.
Copyright 2011 WSHM. All rights reserved.