Local mayors talk casino issues in D.C.

WASHINGTON D.C. (WWLP) — Two local mayors are taking their city's issues to the nation's capitol this week. They're talking jobs, infrastructure and of course casinos.

Holyoke's Mayor Alex Morse and Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonette are on differing sides of the casino issue, but they're hoping to find common ground for Western Massachusetts at the 80th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C.

Hard Rock International might be forced to back off their proposed casino at the site of the Wycoff Country Club in Holyoke.

Mayor Alex Morse opposes a casino in the city saying it would take the paper city in the wrong direction.

Representatives from Hard Rock and several other casino developers have been approaching Mayor Morse, trying to convince him to change his mind on the issue.

Hard Rock claims a casino would bring lots of jobs and $100 million a year in state tax revenue.

But Morse isn't budging.

Hard Rock has not specifically said they are completely abandoning their plans but it might make them take a look at some other locations.

Mayor Morse said, "That's not just good news for me. It's good news for the city of Holyoke because we can now focus on other issues the casino is going to monopolize any political discussion over the next several years."

But for every casino developer Morse turns away, Mayor Bissonnette is inviting to take a look at Chicopee.

"I expect that Chicopee will see one, if not two casino proposals before the bids are due,” Mayor Bissonnette said. “I anticipate those to be well thought out. We don't even want to have those discussions until we have a full site plan."

Both mayors agree no matter where a casino ends up in Western Massachusetts, they will still push to make sure their city benefits.

"Whether or not there is a casino in Holyoke, we're still going to be impacted and that's why it's important to be in agreement with abutting communities to make sure we do get a piece of the pie, and Holyoke residents can still get jobs at the casino,” Mayor Morse said.

While casinos are a relatively new issue, for 38 other states, casino gambling is already a reality.

And there are plenty of mayors here that have a bit of knowledge on the issue, especially Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman.

But issues aside, Mayor Morse himself has been somewhat of the talk of the conference. The 22-year-old is the youngest member.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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