Gov.-elect Baker lauds casino development as he makes 1st visit to west-central Massachusetts

Associated Press

Gov.-elect Charlie Baker praised the development of an MGM casino in downtown Springfield on Friday as he made his first visit to west-central Massachusetts since the election.

Baker visited Springfield City Hall, asking Mayor Domenic Sarno how his incoming administration can help as the $800 million project — the largest private development in western Massachusetts history — gets underway.

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"I really want to be supportive of that project. It's got a lot of really innovative features," he said after closed-door meetings with Sarno and West Springfield Mayor Ed Sullivan. "But I also want to do it in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding communities."

MGM won one of three resort casino licenses authorized under the 2011 state law that voters resoundingly upheld Tuesday. The company proposes a hotel, casino and entertainment complex covering roughly three city blocks.

Baker, a Republican, narrowly defeated Democrat Martha Coakley on Tuesday, four years after losing to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. He said Friday's visits, which also included stops to meet with Worcester-area officials, were partly about closing out a spirited campaign and setting the tone for relationships with local officials that may have backed his gubernatorial rival.

"I don't really care who people endorsed in terms of the election," Baker said. "It's behind us."

Baker said he came to know many parts of the state during his two gubernatorial campaigns but acknowledged he doesn't know the terrain quite as well as Patrick, who declined to seek re-election after two terms.

"I look forward to continuing to get to know the Commonwealth," he said.