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Recount affirms defeat of Mohegan Sun's Palmer, Mass., casino proposal

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published November 26. 2013 3:00PM   Updated November 27. 2013 12:24AM

A recount Tuesday of votes cast in the Nov. 5 referendum on Mohegan Sun's bid to develop a $1 billion resort casino in Palmer, Mass., confirmed that voters rejected the proposal.

The recount increased the margin by a single vote — from the 93 announced on Election Day to 94.

Local election officials met at Palmer Public Library and counted by hand the more than 5,200 votes, a process that took several hours.

Mohegan Sun officials had said the night of the referendum that they would seek a recount because of "irregularities" associated with a jammed voting machine. In the days that followed, Mohegan Sun and supporters of the casino plan filed petitions seeking the recount.

The casino operator issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

"Like so many people in Palmer, we were deeply disappointed in the results of the November 5th referendum — which were confirmed with today's recount. For more than five years we were committed to Palmer and believed in our project's ability to deliver a promising future — with more than $16 million in annual revenue, thousands of new jobs, new opportunities for small business and economic development throughout the region.

"Despite these benefits, we know Palmer is sharply divided on the issue of casino gaming. We accept and respect the results of today's recount and want to thank all of our supporters and volunteers for their tremendous dedication and hard work. We are also very grateful to the town clerk, her staff and dedicated volunteers for their hard work on Election Day and during today's recount. We wish Palmer the best and remain committed to exploring commercial development there that will benefit the entire community."

With little hope that the recount would alter the referendum result, Mohegan Sun announced last week it was ending an "exclusivity agreement" with the owner of the 152-acre site where it had hoped to develop the casino. Mohegan Sun said the move would enable it to negotiate with a casino operator elsewhere in Massachusetts. At the same time, it said it would continue to lease the Palmer property and consider pursuing nongaming development there.

Mohegan Sun has been in talks with owners of Suffolk Downs, who plan to propose a casino project in Revere. Suffolk Downs had originally planned a development that straddled Revere and East Boston, but East Boston voters defeated the proposal in a Nov. 5 referendum. Revere voters approved the proposal.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has yet to decide whether Suffolk Downs can proceed with a plan that would be located entirely in Revere. A Suffolk Downs proposal could compete for the sole Greater Boston casino license with Wynn Resorts' plan for an Everett casino.

In the western Massachusetts zone, MGM Resorts' Springfield plan is the only one still alive.

MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts have yet to clear background checks by the gaming commission's investigators. Both have hearings scheduled next month.

The commission hopes to award one casino license for western Massachusetts and one for the Greater Boston area next spring.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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