Live chat: Ask Penn National's Eric Schi...
Mandy Hofmockel: 
Welcome everyone! Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Government Relations for Penn National Gaming Eric Schippers is scheduled to join us at noon. Reporter Robert Rizzuto will be moderating. Submit your questions below before we begin.
Friday January 18, 2013 11:42 Mandy Hofmockel
Robert Rizzuto: 
We are here with Eric Schippers of Penn National Gaming and about ready to begin. Thanks in advance for joining us today and feel free to ask any questions in the box below.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:00 Robert Rizzuto
Get up to speed on Penn National's proposal with this story on the unveiling of their plan:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:02
[Comment From cubekid cubekid : ] 
How many employees does the casino expect to hire? How many of them are at a legitimate wage ($30,000 or more)? Springfield doesn't need an influx of low wage jobs.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:02 cubekid
Eric Schippers: 
Thanks for the question and the opportunity to be here today to discuss our exciting $807 million proposal for Springfield. We plan to generate more than 2,000 construction jobs and 2,400 casino-related jobs. The average salary for our employees is expected to be approximately $45,000.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:04 Eric Schippers
[Comment From LuLzSpringfield LuLzSpringfield : ] 
Currently, there is a great deal of underutilized parking space beneath I-91. Will you be providing all necessary parking on site, or have you considered using parking underneath the highway?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:05 LuLzSpringfield
Eric Schippers: 
We plan to construct a garage that will be attached to our Hollywood Casino Springfield which will offer 2,900 spaces to our guests. There will also be available parking across the Street at Union Station and part of our planned "Ripple Effect" for Springfield includes helping to accelerate plans for additional parking there. We're also anticipating a sky bridge which would connect Union Station to Hollywood Casino.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:07 Eric Schippers
Shown is an artist's rendering of what Penn National Gaming's proposed casino would look like.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:08 
[Comment From jmay jmay : ] 
I've heard that MGM doesn't own the property rights to all of the property it plans to use for it's casino. Does Penn?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:08 jmay
Eric Schippers: 
We do indeed have site control of our 13.4 acres for our planned casino location in the North End through agreements with Peter Pan and the Republican Newspaper.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:10 Eric Schippers
[Comment From LuLzSpringfield LuLzSpringfield : ] 
Will Penn National spend all $800 million at once, or will it be phased?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:10 LuLzSpringfield
Eric Schippers: 
Our proposal is for a single phased project. If we're fortunate enough to win the license, our project will trigger a significant and positive domino effect that will result in the Republican Newspaper moving its operations to the heart of downtown's central business district; the relocation of the Peter Pan Transportation Center to Union Station; the relocation of the Republican's production operations to a new building to be constructed at an industrial park in Springfield, and more. All of which will occur with the commencement of our project.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:13 Eric Schippers
[Comment From David Ciampi David Ciampi : ] 
I am interested to hear about your plans for the Village Square and where it will be in the City. Thank you for taking the time to provide more information on this project.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:14 David Ciampi
Mandy Hofmockel: 
See a map of proposed casinos, videos of casino officials discussing their plans and more on's casino page:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:18 Mandy Hofmockel
Eric Schippers: 
Thank you for the question. The reporting, publishing and broadcasting elements of the Republican newspaper organization will be relocated to a central downtown location. The relocation will target existing and available space in the heart of downtown in currently vacant space. The Republican envisions a dynamic information hub on street level that will inject energy into the area and welcome residents and visitors as an integral part of the community. News broadcasting, interviews and live events will be core attractions that will supplement open spaces and internet access and foster community involvement.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:18 Eric Schippers
[Comment From Jon Jon : ] 
Did you ever discuss the prospect of building a Hollywood Casino in the City of Chicopee?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:19 Jon
Read about how state gaming regulators rejected requests for extensions to file casino applications in Chicopee, Holyoke and Brookline:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:21
Eric Schippers: 
Yes, we explored numerous potential opportunities throughout Western Mass. as well as the other casino zones in other parts of the Commonwealth. Springfield was always our first choice based on our proven track record of succesful urban renewal in cities similar to Springfield. We're proud to play a part in Springfield's revitalization and hope to serve as an important economic catalyst that will generate opportunites for other businesses here. We firmly believe a rising tide lifts all boats and we've been spending a great deal of time sharing information on the positive ripple effect of our project and exploring ways we can benefit all of Springfield.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:24 Eric Schippers
Robert Rizzuto: 
The next question highlights the ongoing discussion about the condition of Interstate 91 and how potential casino development adjacent to it would impact reconstruction plans. The following link provides the latest from the state on the plans for the elevated section of the highway as well as the transportation funding gap:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:24 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From casinowhispers casinowhispers : ] 
How do you plan on dealing with the infrastructure requirements on I-91 in the downtown corridor? Estimates are running at a minimum of $400 million dollars in order for it to handle the traffic.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:25 casinowhispers
Eric Schippers: 
Thanks for the question. I'm not sure where you received the figure you're quoting, but our plan will result in the most minimal traffic impact of any proposal that has been made to date. Our development site is well situated relative to existing vehicular thoroughfares. Our site is served by several regional approach routes including I-91, I-291 and I-90 that allows traffic to be distributed somewhat evenly around our casino, thus minimizing traffic on any single roadway.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:31 Eric Schippers
Robert Rizzuto: 
The next question relates to Springfield's Union Station, which is currently under construction. When complete, it is slated to be the tranportation hub for the city. The latest on that project is here:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:32 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From jmay jmay : ] 
What's the difference between your plan for Union Station and MGM's plan?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:32 jmay
Eric Schippers: 
As I understand it, MGM has simply proposed to potentially lease space from Union Station for offices and employee training. Our plan is to actually accelerate the Union Station's second phase of redevelopment, which would include constructing additional office, retail, and garage space and connect Union Station via sky bridge to our casino.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:35 Eric Schippers
Mandy Hofmockel
Penn National's Eric Schippers answers readers' questions in a live chat on January 18, 2013. (Photo by Mandy Hofmockel)
Friday January 18, 2013 12:36 
[Comment From JD JD : ] 
Any thought given to building a football stadium in cooperation with UMass for their new D1A football program similar to what Uconn did outside of Hartford?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:36 JD
Eric Schippers: 
While we haven't discussed a possible football stadium with UMASS, we have offered a financial commitment to help UMASS establish a new anchor facility in downtown Springfield. The curriculum, programming, and physical location would all be decided by the University.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:40 Eric Schippers
[Comment From Stevie D Stevie D : ] 
Please talk about your company's experience in cities similar in size to Springfield.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:41 Stevie D
Eric Schippers: 
Penn National Gaming is the nation's largest operator of regional gaming facilities, with 29 properties in 19 different jurisdictions across North America. We are the only gaming operator in the country that can say it opened three new casino facilities within the last 12 months alone -- on time, and on budget -- in communities similar to Springfield. For example, In Toledo we opened the Hollywood Casino on the City's waterfront and are serving as an economic engine for the City and the entire region. Similarly, we opened the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, Ohio in a economically depressed area of the City and have provided a much needed shot in the arm to the local business community. In both cases we engaged in agressive diversity outreach efforts and we're proud to say we exceeded our goals on the minority business front and hired 90% of our workforce locally.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:46 Eric Schippers
Shown is an artist's rendering of what the proposed Penn National Gaming casino would look like.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:47 
[Comment From Fred Gosiewski, Springfie Fred Gosiewski, Springfie : ] 
Will Penn National be purchasing existing homes in the immediate area (walking distance) of the casino in order to provide housing assistance for its employees similar to what Baystate Medical does?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:47 Fred Gosiewski, Springfie
Eric Schippers: 
We don't have any plans to purchase homes in the area -- notably, our project is ideally situated to cause little to no impact on any residential area. We do plan to recruit, train, and hire our workforce locally and will look into potential employee transportation needs. Fortunately, our partner, Peter Pan, has an 80 year positive track record in the transportation field.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:50 Eric Schippers
[Comment From John Henry John Henry : ] 
Would you commit to having a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to ensure that local work goes to local workers so that the project is done on time and on budget? Or will you be bringing in outside construction workers not from MA to build that project?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:50 John Henry
Mandy Hofmockel: 
Last month, Eric Schippers sat down with our media partner CBS 3 Springfield to discuss Penn National's plans. See the extended interview here:
Friday January 18, 2013 12:51 Mandy Hofmockel
Eric Schippers: 
We have agreements in place with the local Carpenters and Building Trades unions. We value our labor relations and notably built our Toledo and Columbus facilities referenced earlier with the building trades there and appreciate the value of a trained local labor workforce. Short answer is "YES", we're committed to working with the local building trades and these will be local workers building this casino.
Friday January 18, 2013 12:55 Eric Schippers
[Comment From MB MB : ] 
MGM has the brand recognition for building high quality casinos. How will Penn National create that same brand recognition so the casino remains a resort destination?
Friday January 18, 2013 12:55 MB
Eric Schippers: 
Our marquee Hollywood Casino brand has been very succesful for us in communities similar to Springfield throughout the United States. No other company generates more excitement per invested dollar than Penn National Gaming. Through state-of-the-art architecture and design, we recapture the golden era of glamorous Hollywood and mix in high tech features to create a unique brand of energy that our customers experience every time they walk through the door. For more imformation, feel free to visit
Friday January 18, 2013 1:02 Eric Schippers
Robert Rizzuto: 
Mr. Schippers has agreed to go beyond the scheduled 1 p.m. conclusion of this live chat to answer a couple more questions. We thank him for that and on to the next question.
Friday January 18, 2013 1:02 Robert Rizzuto
[Comment From Dee L Emery Ferrero Dee L Emery Ferrero : ] 
If Penn does get to build the Casino here, what will be the type of jobs offered to the women of the area? Will there be executive positions available, and not just waitress and gaming room positions?
Friday January 18, 2013 1:03 Dee L Emery Ferrero
Eric Schippers: 
Absolutely. We are committed to diversity and inclusion at all levels of our operations -- from upper management to entry level positions, we'll be aggressively working to maximize opportunities for all. We look forward to partnering with the great local community colleges here for recruitment and job training.
Friday January 18, 2013 1:06 Eric Schippers
[Comment From casinowhispers casinowhispers : ] 
Does it concern you that a suit against Peter Picknelly by the Palmer developers could derail the project?
Friday January 18, 2013 1:06 casinowhispers
Eric Schippers: 
We have thoroughly reviewed the claim and we view it as completely without merit. Our partner Peter Picknelly is 100% committed to Springfield, and cut any ties to Palmer long before we even arrived in Springfield. In my opinion, this amounts to a PR ploy to try to get the Palmer applicants back in the spotlight since so much attention has been paid to Springfield. We're confident this frivolous claim will have zero effect on our exciting plans for Hollywood Casino Springfield.
Friday January 18, 2013 1:11 Eric Schippers
[Comment From fourhybrid fourhybrid : ] 
Would you consider having a "vendor fair" in which local businesess can meet your staff and introduce their products and services?
Friday January 18, 2013 1:12 fourhybrid
Eric Schippers: 
Absolutely. We offer numerous vendor fairs in each of the communities in which we develop casinos. In fact, we do something a bit unique in that we offer "reverse vendor fairs" where members of our purchasing and operations teams are at the table and local vendors can come and get one-on-one opportunities to pitch their business.
Friday January 18, 2013 1:14 Eric Schippers
Robert Rizzuto: 
Thank you to Eric Schippers for joining us today and taking a couple of "bonus" questions at the end. He has agreed to come back and chat again as the casino process progresses in Massachusetts. And a big thank you to our readers for joining us. Stick with MassLive and The Republican for the latest on the casino proposals and be sure to bookmark our casino news page: so you don't miss any developments.
Friday January 18, 2013 1:14 Robert Rizzuto
Eric Schippers: 
Thanks very much for having me, and to the readers of for all the great questions! For more information on our $807 million Hollywood Casino Springfield proposal, please come see us at our 1610 Main Street office at the Student Prince or visit us online at or Thanks!
Friday January 18, 2013 1:17 Eric Schippers
Robert Rizzuto: 
And that concludes our live chat. Thanks again and we will "chat" again soon. Signing off, ~Rob Rizzuto
Friday January 18, 2013 1:17 Robert Rizzuto
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