My thoughts on the Casino Question

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To my friends:

Over the past few days several of you have asked me about my feelings and position on having a casino in Holyoke. I know this question has many political dimensions and pitfalls to it. I will try to provide an honest answer from a non-political standpoint – one from my role as a department head in Planning & Economic Development who is tasked to work for all Holyokers.

I fully support the Mayor’s strategy to study and consider gaming-licensed resort proposals for Holyoke. Simply put, it is hard to categorically exclude a potential type of development for our city without taking a hard look at what it would entail. This is what we’ve set out to do.

I am not morally opposed to gaming, and whether it be in Puerto Rico or Pennsylvania, I’ve seen instances where gaming is but a component of a larger development that proves to be a successful economic catalyst for a community. That being said, there may be as many or more examples of such resorts that have detracted from surrounding quality of life and socioeconomic opportunity. From my perspective, this is not a “one size fits all” solution; it is one that needs to be looked at from the realities that each community faces.

Some of our community’s friends and neighbors have looked at some of the facts and have already reached their own conclusions. That is perfectly understandable. But it is my belief that if I as head of Planning & Economic Development, and we as an administration, do not dig deeper into what such a resort would practically look like in our city we would be negligent in our duty to serve Holyoke. Such is the nature of good governance.

The Mayor has not taken this approach lightly, and has established a high bar for all of us that serve the city to meet. We are tasked with taking a serious look at proposals on the table, to explore whether we can pursue this in a way that addresses our common values, and do it in an open & transparent way. We must do this in a short timeframe whilst not dropping or shifting the economic development priorities he has laid out since the outset. And we have all accepted this challenge because we recognize that is what we owe the people of Holyoke, who we serve every day.

Whether or not I ultimately support a gaming resort in Holyoke will depend on the quality of each proposal’s details, how they address the criteria we have laid out, and whether we can negotiate an appropriate host agreement for ourselves and the region. So the question, in my view, is premature.

I am doing well and appreciate you all checking-in. I maintain the same hope and excitement about my job and the future of this great city which has welcomed Wanda and me with open arms.

Time to get back to work!

-Marcos

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