Residents, business owners share mixed opinions about W. Side ca - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Residents, business owners share mixed opinions about West Side casino

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WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

Eastern States Exposition officials and Hard Rock announced they're also in the running for a Western Mass casino license along with MGM and Penn National in Springfield and Mohegan Sun in Palmer.

They plan on building a $700 million to $800 million resort casino on 38 acres of the 175 acres at the fairgrounds.

For nearly 100 years, the Eastern States Exposition, known as the Big E, has been a staple here in Western Mass.

Now that gaming could be coming to town, residents and business owners have some mixed opinions.

Owner of Pintu's Indian Palace on Elm Street, Sarabjit Chawla says even though his business is just right down the street from the fairgrounds where a casino is proposed, he's not worried.

"Change is very good, if it's done right and for the right reasons. I'm very optimistic," Chawla said.

Hard Rock and Eastern States Exposition officials announced Friday they have paid the $400,000 to the State Gaming Commission to be in the running for the Western Mass casino license.

Chawla says it could be a positive for the town.

"Besides the Big E, the place is empty for 320 days unless they have some shows here and there, so it's a good thing," he said.

Friday casino officials unveiled renderings at a star-studded red carpet gala.

But even with all the glamour, some have concerns - especially about traffic.

"They should learn that from the Big E. When the exposition takes place or when they have shows there, there's a back-up," Chawla said.

"I think the Big E should stay the Big E. There's enough traffic alone with that. Year round that kind of traffic on this road is just going to create a lot more headaches," said Kevin Hill of Agawam.

Other residents are looking at the positives, even if they're not exactly thrilled about the potential of a casino.

"It's good for jobs, but I see a lot of negative things that can come along with it," said Franklin Callins of Springfield.

But Chawla, who's been a West Side business owner for more than ten years, is counting on loyalty to keep his businesses booming.

"If your product is good, no matter what, you're going to do good. … I'm very loyal to this town," he said.

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