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PALMER, MA (WSHM) -
A group affiliated with Baystate is conducting casino health impact meetings with each of the Western Mass communities with casino proposals.
A small group of Palmer residents sat down Thursday night to list their top concerns.
"I'm very afraid of the traffic conditions which will add to the pollution here in Palmer," said lifelong resident Iris Cardin.
Addiction, crime and job loss are among concerns for Palmer residents who oppose a casino.
But traffic tops them all.
"It's going to be a huge impact on Palmer, they'll have to destroy businesses or homes or cemeteries or schools to widen roads and it'll make it a dangerous situation," Cardin said.
Even supporters of Mohegan Sun say they know there will be impacts but believe the potential of jobs is more important.
"I do believe the economic benefits will outweigh the negative impacts, of course, but we do know there are going to be some impacts," said Jennifer Baruffaldi.
Each casino company must reach a deal with the community they want to build in that addresses concerns like gambling addiction, traffic mitigation and job numbers.
Mohegan Sun reps say that solving problems like traffic is also a top issue for them but they have to go through federal highway, MassDOT and local highway departments to get approval for road plans.
"The host community agreement will address a number of things, socio-economic factors as well as the technical factors of water, gas, those types of things, and electricity," said Peter Schultz, of Mohegan Sun.
But opponents remain skeptical that a casino could change their town.
"There's nothing they'll be able to do to stop the impacts, especially from ruining a cozy community like Palmer," Cardin said.
Mohegan Sun anticipates completing host community negotiations this summer with a vote in the fall. Hard Rock is also anticipating a fall vote for their proposal in West Springfield. MGM is hoping for a July vote in Springfield.
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