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Holyoke casino would benefit eight other towns

Date: 4/12/2011

April 13, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — The group of businessmen attempting to bring a casino to Holyoke has released a plan that would share monies not just with Holyoke, but eight other Western Massachusetts communities.

Anthony Cignoli, a member of Paper City Development Co. LLC, told Reminder Publications the proposal was "atypical" in the casino industry.

Under the "Holyoke Now!: A Partnership for Regional Progress Plan," the gaming company, if it is successful in landing the casino license for Western Massachusetts, would give Holyoke 1.25 percent of the net gaming revenues made at the casino that would be located at Wyckoff Country Club.

Paper City LLC would also allocate another 1.25 percent of revenue for distribution among Chicopee, Westfield, Northampton, West Springfield, Easthampton, Southampton, South Hadley and Hadley.

Under this plan, if earning projections prove correct, Holyoke would receive more than $5 million and Chicopee would receive more than of $1.4 million, followed by Westfield, $1.05 million; Northampton, $716,000; West Springfield, $707,000; South Hadley, $434,000; Easthampton, $408,000; Southampton, $149,000; and Hadley, $118,000.

The industry standard is to pay a host community 1 percent, Cignoli explained. He added that while it is common for casinos to pay host fees to the city where they are located, this plan brings the economic development benefits offered by the casino's earnings to a larger group of communities in Hampden and Hampshire counties.

According to Paper City Managing Partner Joseph Lashinger, "Sen. [Stephen] Brewer has been very clear in expressing his concerns about the potential impact of casino operations on surrounding communities. He has been unrelenting in his efforts to insure that neighboring cities and towns adjacent to where casinos are proposed are not forgotten in the siting process and that their municipal needs are considered as well. Paper City shares Senator Brewer's broader regional view when it comes to community reinvestment and the financial benefits to be realized for communities, should expanded gaming be approved in the Commonwealth. We recognize the fiscal challenges and budgetary dilemmas that these communities face, particularly in trying economic times like these. That's why we've elected to put our best foot forward now in offering this plan."

If one of the selected communities elects not to accept the allocation offered by the casino, those funds would be distributed to the participating communities.

Lashinger added, "Regardless of any potential legislative dictate that may predetermine a specific amount that casino developers must direct to both host and surrounding communities, Paper City stands prepared to go above and beyond, following through on our promised financial commitment to these communities by entering into formal agreements with each of them. We want to truly partner with our host community Holyoke and its neighboring cities and towns. In doing so, it's important to remember that there is absolutely no cap on the amount of money that our plan might yield. There is shared success as revenues grow. That's the most concrete way we know of making these communities a genuine economic partner in a resort casino built in Holyoke."

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