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Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse backs Mountain Park casino

  • A view of the gate to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue in Holyoke, and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass over I-91 that leads to it. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the site's only access.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A view of the gate to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue in Holyoke, and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass over I-91 that leads to it. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the site's only access.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view, looking south toward the Springfield skyline, of Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A view, looking south toward the Springfield skyline, of Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view, looking north, of the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A view, looking north, of the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A south-facing view of Mountain Park from the seating area of the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area at bottom of the hill.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A south-facing view of Mountain Park from the seating area of the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area at bottom of the hill.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view looking west of Mountain Park in Holyoke, taken from Cedar Knob, located just across I-91 from the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A view looking west of Mountain Park in Holyoke, taken from Cedar Knob, located just across I-91 from the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view, looking west toward Mount Tom, of I-91 and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass in Holyoke that leads to the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue, at upper right. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the only access to the site.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A view, looking west toward Mount Tom, of I-91 and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass in Holyoke that leads to the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue, at upper right. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the only access to the site.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view of the gate to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue in Holyoke, and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass over I-91 that leads to it. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the site's only access.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view, looking south toward the Springfield skyline, of Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view, looking north, of the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke, owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A south-facing view of Mountain Park from the seating area of the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd. in Holyoke owned by Holyoke native Eric Suher. During the concert season a stage is built on the paved area at bottom of the hill.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view looking west of Mountain Park in Holyoke, taken from Cedar Knob, located just across I-91 from the outdoor concert venue on Mountain Park Access Rd.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view, looking west toward Mount Tom, of I-91 and the Mountain Park Access Rd. overpass in Holyoke that leads to the entrance to Mountain Park, an outdoor concert venue, at upper right. The two-lane bridge off of Northampton St. (Rt. 5) provides the only access to the site.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

HOLYOKE — Mayor Alex Morse, whose opposition to casino plans helped him win last year’s election at age 22, is now supporting a bid by Northampton developer and businessman Eric Suher to bring a gambling resort to town.

Morse, now 23, is expected to announce at a 10 a.m. press conference today that he is backing plans for a casino and hotel complex at Mountain Park near Mount Tom, the area just off Interstate 91 where Suher and his Iron Horse Entertainment Group have staged outdoor concerts for the last few years.

Morse says he changed his mind because he now believes a casino would be a boost to Holyoke’s struggling economy, and because he fears a casino built in Springfield would also hurt Holyoke businesses. There are three separate proposals for a casino in Springfield.

“I think we’re all realizing that casinos are coming to western Mass., and Holyoke cannot sit on the sidelines,” Morse told the Boston Globe in a report published Sunday.

Morse could not be reached for comment Sunday; a phone call and an email from the Gazette to his assistants were not returned.

But Morse, who staked his campaign for the mayor’s office last year in part on his opposition to casinos, reiterated those views last month in an article in CommonwealthMagazine.org., saying a casino “would not lay the foundation for the type of sustainable economic growth we need.”

Morse also wrote that the casino industry “produces nothing, sells nothing, and siphons money from the local economy and into the hands of distant owners . . . I ran for mayor because I wanted our city to dream bigger.”

In an interview with CBS News shortly after his election last November, Morse also said casinos “earn money on the backs of the poorest and senior citizens.”

The mayor acknowledged to the Globe that he is flip-flopping on the issue and is prepared for a backlash. But he said Suher’s proposed casino complex offers much more to the city than a proposal that Hard Rock International Co. offered last year for a casino in Holyoke, which Morse rejected.

Suher also could not be reached for comment Sunday; an email sent to the publicity director for IHEG was not returned. But according to the Globe, Suher’s project, which he is developing with a Connecticut company that also developed the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., would include a 350-room hotel, a convention center, outdoor concert venues, and restaurants, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation.

On Sunday, Morse also posted on his Facebook page, “As mayor, it is my duty and obligation to think holistically about our city and the region, and when any business plan is presented to me, it is my responsibility to consider it. This is exactly what I’m doing with the Mountain Park proposal.”

Voters in Holyoke would ultimately decide whether to approve a casino in that city. A majority of voters in communities selected as potential sites need to approve a referendum before a casino could be built.

The state’s year-old law allows up to three resort-style casinos to be built in Massachusetts, with one in the western part of the state. Three major casino operators have proposed gambling resorts in Springfield, and Palmer is also a potential site.

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