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Penn National talks North End plans

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CBS 3 Springfield is learning more about Penn National Gaming's plans for a North End casino in Springfield.

The deadline for final plans from any developer interested in the city is now less than a month away.

MGM and Penn National are vying for a casino license in Springfield. Ameristar formally dropped out of the race last week.

CBS 3 sat down with Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Eric Schippers, who addressed traffic, the layout and the competition.

"We're always looking for new opportunities," Schippers said.

Penn National Gaming says their newest opportunity belongs right here in Springfield - a sprawling $800 million resort casino along Main Street in the North End.

"We think it fits the sweet spot of what we do as a company in terms of urban renewal and partnering with local businesses," Schippers said.

And that's exactly what the gaming company is doing. Penn National has linked with local businessman, Peter Picknelly, on their Springfield endeavor.

Their plans would include taking over the land where his bus terminal now sits.

But how much of the North End landscape would change? Penn National isn't ready to show all their cards just yet.

"A lot of moving parts that are all importantly beginning to fall into place," Schippers said.

If Penn gets the license, Peter Pan's bus terminal would be moved to Union station which is slated for renovation, and The Republican would be moved to a pre-existing building. In all, the resort casino would take up nearly 14 acres.

And with all of the glitz of the Hollywood-styled complex, there's certain to be plenty of traffic.

Schippers says they have a plan for that.

"We're looking at things like a ring road around our project that's one of the things we're exploring," he said.

But a few hundred yards down the street lies their competition's proposal - a 12-acre site along Main Street in the South End.

It's no secret that MGM has become visible in the city, partnering with sports teams and sponsoring community events.

But Schippers says Penn National doesn't have to make up any ground.

"People are going to make the decision as to who they support based on the merits of the program not based on the PR, if you will, or the exposure," he said.

One of the top concerns of local residents and business owners is what it all means for the mom and pop shops around Main Street.

Schippers says Penn would be a catalyst for growth in the entire community.

"We've already spoken with some local businesses on how we can do cross-marketing," he said.

MGM and Penn National will be presenting their casino plans at a public forum on Dec. 11 at City Stage at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

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