Local mayors and town officials concerned about casino effects - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Local mayors and town officials concerned about casino effects

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When a casino is built in Western Mass it will impact the entire region.

The State Gaming Commission is prepared to help surrounding communities deal with the effects of a resort casino.

"Find out what our role will be, what our rights are and certainly under the law and the statute, what we have to do going forward," said Richard Theroux, Agawam town clerk.

Dozens of local mayors, town council members and representatives filled the seats at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to hear how they can get their concerns addressed if a casino moves next door to their community.

"Impacts will not only be felt in the host community," said State Gaming Commission Ombudsman John Ziemba.

Ziemba fielded questions from local town officials, who want to make sure that they can prepare for whatever effects a Western Mass casino may bring.

"It's going to be a major impact if there's a casino here in the valley, regardless of how you feel about gaming," said Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik.

There are four proposals for a Western Mass casino: MGM and Penn National in Springfield, Hard Rock in West Springfield and Mohegan Sun in Palmer.

Town officials in Agawam have already created a committee to look at potential impacts.

"We do not have a say whether or not there will be a community hosting a casino next to us, but we do have a say as to how we will be treated as a surrounding community," Theroux said.

In Longmeadow, they're most concerned about traffic, sharing a border with Springfield.

"We're right on Interstate 91 and there's going to be some serious repercussions and we want to be part of the conversation," said Longmeadow Selectwoman Marie Angelides.

Ziemba says local town officials should already contact the casino operators to discuss impacts.

Many are already looking into making sure their towns' best interests are met.

"It's going to be a very complicated and a very long process but we're going to protect our community at all costs," Theroux said.

Local towns that share borders with the towns that have casino proposals can apply to the state gaming commission to get status as a "surrounding community."

They will then be able to get access to funding to deal with any effects of a casino.

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