Would-be casino developer forges ahead - Monday 30th of June 2008

Bidding to be first in line when and if the state approves expanded gaming, Northeast Resorts Group is continuing to develop plans for a resort casino in the Hicks-Logan neighborhood.

“We think it’s going to happen and we want to be ready when it does,” Leon Dragone, president of the Longmeadow-based development company that controls 35 acres in Hicks-Logan, said today.

If Northeast is able to pull off its dream of developing a waterfront casino resort with related retail, housing and tourist-themed activities, the project will be called “Revere Landing.” The area was home to the Revere Copper plant, founded by Paul Revere in 1801, for more than two centuries.

Mr. Dragone said Northeast is pushing forward on several fronts:

n “We’ve started some preliminary architectural design work” to determine where the proposed casino would be situated and what it would look like, he said.

n “We’re looking at the designation (as a special ‘growth district’) the state has given that neighborhood and how that can best be folded into the project.” Gov. Patrick has said the goal of a “growth district” designation is to provide businesses and developers with “speed, simplicity and predictability of development.”

n “We’ve been talking with a couple of gaming companies and are perhaps close to selecting a single entity” to develop the proposed casino.

One thing he can’t control, however, is the politics.

But because of the dire economic conditions, he remains optimistic. The state needs new sources of revenue, and no one is in the mood for raising taxes.

Proponents of slot machines at the state’s four pari-mutuel race tracks suffered a setback today, when the Senate delayed debate on the measure, effectively killing it for the legislative year, which ends July 31. However, backers were planning to file another bill for the next session.

Mr. Dragone said he’s expecting the slot machine and casino proponents to work out a compromise.

“The supporters of slot machines at the tracks need votes of the casino supporters to get their bill passed and vice versa,” Mr. Dragone said. “I think you’ll find an amalgam of both bills that will eventually emerge.”

Northeast Resorts, along with local partner Peter Picknelly of Peter Pan Bus Lines, also has an agreement with Mohegan Sun to develop another resort casino on a 152-acre site adjacent to Exit 8 of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Palmer.

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