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Penn, MGM plans heard for Mass. casino

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Penn National Gaming Inc. and MGM Resorts International, competing for the lone western Massachusetts casino license with $800 million projects in Springfield, discussed their proposals at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Penn National and The Republican newspaper also announced Tuesday an option agreement for Penn to buy properties the newspaper owns downtown and along the Connecticut River if Penn wins the license. The newspaper said its current editorial and printing facilities would be relocated if the sale takes place. Terms weren't disclosed.

Penn National and local partner Peter A. Picknelly, chairman and CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines, propose a resort casino and hotel on a 13.4 acres in the North End, which includes bus company property. Penn National said Tuesday it wants to include regionally-themed restaurants, including a sports bar involving retired quarterback Doug Flutie.

MGM Resorts International proposes a resort casino, hotel and entertainment complex on a 10-block site downtown. MGM said it would include retail shops and apartments, and take advantage of existing tourism spots in Springfield to compete with the entertainment complexes of Connecticut casinos. MGM also said its project would create thousands of new jobs.

Mayor Domenic Sarno is expected to decide early next year whether to negotiate a host community agreement with one or both of the developers.

The company that emerges from the Springfield competition will likely have to compete locally with Uncasville, Conn., casino company Mohegan Sun, which is seeking a resort casino in the town of Palmer.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will make the final decision on the western Massachusetts operating license, one of three regional licenses allowed under the state's year-old casino law.