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Chicopee's casino dreams still have a chance

Date: 1/25/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

CHICOPEE — If any current casino operators are having trouble with a site; come to Chicopee. Mayor Michael Bissonnette has one for you.

That's the message from Bissonnette whose request for an extension from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) for a developer to pay the necessary $400,000 was denied at its meeting on Jan. 17.

Bissonnette had requested the extension in the hopes the additional time would allow an unnamed local developer to find a casino partner. He said there was an agreement in place between the local developer and the owner of Cabotville Industrial Park.

MGC spokesperson Elaine Driscoll announced extensions requested by the City of Chicopee, Good Sam's Casino Inc., Paper City Development and The Seafan Trust were all denied.

She wrote, "Commissioners concurred that granting extensions would wreak havoc on the schedule and would negatively affect the public interest by significantly slowing the licensing process. They also concurred that no entity was able to demonstrate the extraordinary circumstances that the law requires in order to be considered for a waiver."

Casino developers had looked at potential sites at the Chicopee River Business Park and off of Burnett Road. The Burnett Road location was discarded because of the problems a high-rise building would create so close to the flight path of Westover Air Reserve Base, according to the mayor. The co-ownership of the industrial park between Chicopee and Springfield also created complications.

In response to the MGC decision, Bissonnette wrote on his Facebook page, "The Gaming Commission has denied my request for an extension of time to consider a Cabotville project. I am still intrigued by the site and remain available for serious discussion with any qualified devotee/operator. Such a transformative waterfront proposal in an urban setting that brings in jobs and revenue will always merit my attention."