Penn National unveils casino plan in Mass.

BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press

BOSTON -- A third major gambling company formally revealed plans Thursday for a resort casino in Springfield, as would-be developers faced a deadline to submit proposals to officials in the western Massachusetts city.

Penn National Gaming Inc. said on Thursday it was seeking to build an $807 million resort casino and hotel on a parcel that is now home to a newspaper and a bus terminal.

The company _ in partnership with Peter Picknelly, the chairman and chief executive of Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Lines _ is proposing a 300,000-square-foot casino and a 300- to 500-room hotel on 13.4 acres of land off Interstate 91 in the city's North End.

The project, which would be called Hollywood Casino Springfield, would include up to 3,500 slot machines and at least 100 poker and other table games. The company said it also planned several restaurants and space for conventions.

The plan calls for relocating the offices of The Republican newspaper to a newly-renovated location in downtown Springfield and building a new printing plant for the newspaper. The existing Peter Pan bus terminal would be moved to Union Station.

The plan also called for refurbishing the Paramount Theater and housing some of Penn National's administrative offices in the historic building.

Peter Carlino, chairman and chief executive of Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming, said in a statement that the casino plan would contribute to a "renaissance" for Springfield's downtown and deliver "thousands of new permanent jobs, significant union construction jobs, and millions of tax dollars to the region."

Picknelly said he looked forward to discussing the project in greater detail with Mayor Domenic Sarno's administration and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Penn National Gaming operates more than two dozen gambling facilities in the U.S. and Canada. It opened the Hollywood Casino Columbus in Ohio's capital earlier this month.

The company's widely anticipated Springfield announcement came hours before a 5 p.m. Thursday application deadline set by the city.

Sarno has established a process for the state's third-largest city to weigh multiple casino proposals and select one _ or possibly more _ to put before voters for approval.

In August, MGM International proposed an $800 million resort casino on 10 acres of downtown land that had sustained extensive damage in a June 2011 tornado.

Ameristar Casinos, the only potential developer that currently owns land in Springfield, bought a former industrial site off Interstate 291 for $16 million earlier this year. In its announcement on Thursday, Penn National Gaming offered to try to bring a large retailer to the property owned by Ameristar, but did not elaborate.

A fourth company, Hard Rock International, had been considering a Springfield proposal after dropping an earlier plan to develop a casino in Holyoke after it ran into opposition from the city's mayor. It was unclear if Hard Rock would submit an application to Springfield by the 5 p.m. deadline. A message left with a spokesman for the firm was not immediately returned.

The state gambling commission will make the decision on awarding the sole casino operating license for western Massachusetts, one of three regional licenses allowed under the state's 11-month-old casino law.

The company that emerges from the Springfield competition will likely have to compete with Mohegan Sun, which on Wednesday reaffirmed its plans to seek a resort casino in the town of Palmer.