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The Casino-Biomass Connection

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Well, this could be a little awkward: the principals in a company with a pending lawsuit against the city of Springfield are, at the same time, involved in a casino proposal that needs the approval of city officials.

As first reported by Ryan Walsh of Channel 22’s investigative “I-Team,” David Callahan and Vincent Barletta are among the people subject to background checks by the Mass. Gaming Commission. The Commission, which will ultimately choose the recipients of the three casino licenses to be granted by the state, is conducting checks on the corporations seeking those licenses, as well as on the company’s employees and investors—among them. Callahan and Barletta, who, Walsh reported, have a financial stake in MGM’s proposed casino in the South End of Springfield.

According to Walsh, MGM Springfield told him that the two “have a limited financial investment and were brought onto the project because they owned the land in Brimfield that MGM originally wanted to build on.” Other members of the Callahan family are also on the Gaming Commission’s background-check list.

The Callahan and Barletta names are already familiar from another high-profile project they’ve proposed for the city: a controversial wood-burning power plant they want to build in East Springfield. The City Council initially granted that project a special permit in 2008 but rescinded it in 2011, in response to public opposition. Palmer Renewable Energy, Callahan and Barletta’s company, has sued the city over the revocation—meaning that city leaders are deciding whether to give the go-ahead to a casino project whose investors include two men with a pending, and potentially very costly, legal action against the city.

Mayor Domenic Sarno is now negotiating host community agreements with MGM and rival developer Penn National, which wants to build a casino in the North End. Any agreement that emerges from that process will then be voted on by the City Council before going to city voters for approval. Last week, Sarno announced that the draft agreements will not be finished in time for the question to appear on the June 25 special Senate election ballot, as city officials had previously hoped.•

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