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Ameristar Casinos Announces Agreement to Purchase Former Westinghouse Site
LAS VEGAS — In anticipation of the legalization of casino gaming in Massachusetts, Ameristar Casinos Inc. (NASDAQ-GS: ASCA) announced last week it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase land in Springfield, Mass., with the intent to apply for the sole casino license for Western Mass. and, if awarded, build a luxury hotel and entertainment resort. “This is a great opportunity for Ameristar to build on a one-of-a-kind site within the city limits of Springfield, a city that would greatly benefit from an economic development project of this magnitude,” said Gordon Kanofsky, Ameristar’s CEO. “There are not many attractive new-market growth opportunities for casino companies, and this one in particular fits squarely within the Ameristar business model as an upscale regional destination casino operator.” Ameristar has agreed to purchase the 41-acre site at Page Boulevard and Interstate 291 (the former Westinghouse complex) for $16 million from an affiliate of the O’Connell Development Group Inc., which had anticipated a large-scale retail project on the site. Since Westinghouse vacated the property in 1970, it had been utilized for light industrial purposes, but more recently had been vacant. The buildings on the site are being razed, and the property will be delivered to Ameristar substantially ready for construction. Ameristar’s development plans are preliminary but are expected to include a state-of-the-art casino continuously updated with the newest and most popular slot machines and a variety of table games, a luxury hotel, a diverse offering of dining venues, retail outlets, entertainment and meeting space, and structured parking. “As with all of our other properties, we look forward to partnering with the city and community to ensure our project visually complements the surrounding neighborhood and suitable street improvements are made to accommodate increased traffic in the area,” said Kanofsky. Subject to the satisfactory completion of Ameristar’s due diligence, the closing of the purchase is expected to occur in January 2012. Ameristar Casinos  has eight casino hotel properties primarily serving guests from Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada.

Poll: Palmer Resort Casino Favored Over Springfield Venue
WILBRAHAM — By a margin of 61.4% to 42.5%, residents of four Western Massachusetts counties who have visited a casino during the past two years would prefer visiting a Palmer destination resort casino over a Springfield venue, should gaming become legalized. Market Street Research of Northampton conducted the survey from Oct. 20-26. The survey included 350 residents of the four counties with a margin of error between 3.1% and 5.2%, according to Julie Pokela, principle of Market Street Research. “We interviewed those who have visited a casino, and who don’t live in either Palmer or Springfield, determining preference in Western Massachusetts between a possible Palmer or Springfield resort casino,” said Pokela. The survey also found that a large majority of residents of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire, 75.8%, have visited a resort casino, while 23.9% have never visited a casino. Of those who have visited a casino during the past two years, nearly half, 48.5%, have visited two or more times. The Mohegan Sun has proposed a resort casino for Palmer on 152 acres of land owned by The Northeast Group, and Penn Gaming recently announced interest in a Springfield casino venue. “One of the considerations was to determine if the public prefers venues ‘in the woods’ such as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods or in urban areas such as Springfield,” said Paul Robbins, public relations consultant to Northeast. “The survey was designed to determine preference among those in Western Mass. who are located within an hour’s drive of both Palmer and Springfield.”

October Employment “Stable”
WASHINGTON — The nation’s labor market posted stable growth in October, according to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The economy added 104,000 private sector jobs last month, and we also added 102,000 more jobs than had previously been reported in August and September,” said Solis in a statement. The unemployment rate dropped to 9%, its lowest level in six months. “The number of long-term unemployed — defined as Americans out of work for 27 weeks or more — fell by 366,000 in October, the biggest drop since 1948,” she said. Additionally, the jobless rate for African-Americans dropped a percentage point to 15.1%, its lowest level since August 2009. “We’ve now created 2.8 million jobs over 20 consecutive months of private sector growth, including more than 1 million jobs this year alone,” she said. GDP growth in the third quarter was 2.5% — the fastest rate in more than a year and nearly twice that of the previous quarter. Businesses reported significantly fewer layoffs in October. Consumer and business spending are both up, reflecting Americans’ increased confidence in our recovery progress. “Unfortunately, we continue to see job losses in government and construction, both areas where passage of the American Jobs Act would have a direct and immediate effect on job creation,” said Solis. Overall, non-farm payroll added 80,000 jobs in October, reflecting the loss of 24,000 government jobs and 20,000 jobs in construction. “The policies this administration has pursued have added jobs back into the economy, but the pace of our recovery continues to be influenced by the failure of Congress to pass legislation to put Americans back to work,” she said. In the week ending Oct. 29, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 397,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 406,000. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending Oct. 15 was 6,781,960, an increase of 103,117 from the previous week. Extended benefits were available in Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin during the week ending Oct. 15.

Census: Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty in Local Cities
SPRINGFIELD — As the first decade of the 2000s drew to a close, the two downturns that bookended the period, combined with slow job growth between, clearly took their toll on the nation’s less fortunate residents, according to a new report, The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s, by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Over a 10-year span, the country saw the poor population grow by 12.3 million, driving the total number of Americans in poverty to a historic high of 46.2 million. By the end of the decade, more than 15% of the nation’s population lived below the federal poverty line — $22,314 for a family of four in 2010 — though these increases did not occur evenly throughout the country. An analysis of data on neighborhood poverty from the 2005-09 American Community Surveys and Census 2000 reveals that: After declining in the 1990s, the population in extreme-poverty neighborhoods — where at least 40% of individuals live below the poverty line — rose by one-third from 2000 to 2005-09. By the end of the period, 10.5% of poor people nationwide lived in such neighborhoods, up from 9.1% in 2000, but still well below the 14.1% rate in 1990. For the Springfield metropolitan area, which includes Holyoke, a total population of 520,801 included 58,565 classified as “poor” while 16,311 were classified as “poor in extreme poverty.” The extreme poverty areas in Springfield cited in the report included the neighborhoods of Brightwood, Memorial Square, McKnight, Old Hill, Six Corners, Lower Liberty Heights and the South End. In Holyoke, tracts considered in extreme poverty were bordered by Interstate 391, Beech Street and the Connecticut River. Local officials have cited the weak economy and job losses as reasons for these extreme poverty neighborhoods. The report noted that in the past decade, the Springfield Metropolitan Area has seen a 2% increase in concentrated poverty neighborhoods.

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