Casino Backers’ ‘Next Steps’ Uncertain
January 03, 2012
by Chris Cassidy
Uncertainty clouds the future of the proposed Foxboro casino by Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Sin City hotshot Steve Wynn, whose companies appeared to be caught off-guard yesterday by a devastating Board of Selectmen vote condemning the idea of a high-rollers palace inside the famous football town's borders.
"We're disappointed with the board's decision to deny Foxboro taxpayers the due process they are entitled under the state's gaming law," Wynn Resorts and the Kraft Group said in a statement. "We have not made any decisions regarding next steps."
Casino critics, who celebrated the small victory, hoped the vote would send Wynn packing but dug in for an even fiercer fight.
"This is a full-throated ‘No,' " said casino opponent Paul Mortenson. "We'll remain ready, but really our expectation is that they would withdraw - that's what they said they would do."
Nothing can stop Wynn and Kraft from organizing their own meeting, pitching their plan directly to residents and trying to build political momentum.
But they need selectmen's approval to begin the process of a host-town agreement, a majority vote at a town election and a two-thirds majority at a town meeting to overturn a 2004 ban on gambling on Route 1.
"I just don't know that you can accomplish those three things after the concerns that were loudly expressed by the residents of Foxboro (Tuesday) night," said state Rep. Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield).
The Foxboro meeting - in a packed auditorium of more than 500 - was highly emotional and at times downright vicious. Police removed one man, a selectman threatened to walk out, crowd members frequently heckled town officials and an 82-year-old woman engaged in a shouting match with the chairman.
Foxboro is just the beginning, one expert predicted.
"It's the first in what's going to be a series of rancorous meetings all over the state wherever they're proposed," said Stonehill College political science professor Peter Ubertaccio. "Massachusetts politics is very localized. These developments can change the character of towns, and people get very upset by that."
Casino or not, some neighborhoods have already changed, town officials said.
"I don't hate anyone for voting the way they did," said Selectmen Chairman Larry Harrington. "I just get upset when I hear someone doesn't speak to their neighbor now because they're on the opposite side of the issue."
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