Morse changes mind on casinos — again

Holyoke mayor flips back to “no” on casinos

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who just over two weeks announced a stunning reversal of his strong anti-casino stand and said he would consider gambling  proposals for his city, reversed course yet again, announcing that he is abandoning any consideration of a casino in Holyoke. The 22-year-old mayor authored this strong anti-casino commentary piece in the current issue of CommonWealth, which was released in October. Weeks later, he announced in this statement that he would consider a casino after all. Below is the statement Morse released today reversing that decision.

Late last month, I announced a change in my strategy to address the reality of a casino coming to our region. Since that announcement, I have come to recognize the flaws of such strategy. It has become increasingly clear that pursuing this conversation will only be a distraction from my administration’s broader economic goals, and I regret not realizing this fact sooner.

Today, I am halting all consideration of casino development in the City of Holyoke, and the City will be returning the grants provided by both gaming proponents to review their projects. I have decided not to pursue a host agreement for a project of this type in the City of Holyoke. A casino may be coming to our area, but it will not be coming here.

I admit that the potential  benefits such as prime recreational opportunities available on and around  Mt. Tom and the possibility of revenue to be gained from a casino to be invested downtown piqued my interest- as did the reality that a casino down the road would have negative effects on Holyoke and other surrounding communities. But over the past weeks I have done a lot of listening: I have heard from colleagues; I have heard from friends; I have heard from leaders from other cities that faced similar circumstances; and, above all, I have heard from the citizens I serve. And I now realize that the allure of these short-term economic benefits are not worth a protracted exercise that would divert us and cause me to lose sight of the values that got me elected.

Meet the Author

Our City cannot afford to be diverted by this conversation. At a time when our community needs unity of purpose, a yearlong debate over locating a casino within our borders will only sow division and discord. In retrospect, I should have foreseen this sort of division, and I apologize for introducing it. Initiating this process was a mistake and I accept that responsibility.

Now, more than ever, I recognize how complicated the work of good governance can be. I have learned from this experience. Ultimately, I hope to build on this humbling moment and to become a better mayor as a result. We still have much work before us, and I am grateful that by listening, and with your support, I am now back on track.