In another dramatic U-turn, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has killed potential casino developments in his city, a month after he shocked supporters by reversing a longtime anticasino stance and announcing he was open to a gambling resort.
Two casino development groups responded with applications to build in Holyoke. Morse will refund grants the groups paid to help the city study the plans.
“Today, I am halting all consideration of casino development in the city of Holyoke,’’ Morse said in a statement. “A casino may be coming to our area, but it will not be coming here.’’
Morse’s flip last month from casino opponent to potential supporter brought a hail of criticism, and he apologized Thursday.
“At a time when our community needs unity of purpose, a yearlong debate over locating a casino within our borders will only sow division and discord,’’ Morse said. “In retrospect, I should have foreseen this sort of division, and I apologize for introducing it. Initializing this process was a mistake and I accept that responsibility.’’
Morse was elected last year at age 22 on an anticasino platform, beating incumbent Mayor Elaine Pluta, who favored bringing a gambling resort to Holyoke. The casino issue was one of the strongest contrasts between the candidates, and many members of the anticasino groups in the city had campaigned on Morse’s behalf.