Massachusetts Voters Reject Foxwoods’ $1 Billion Casino Plan

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MILFORD, Mass. — Voters gave a resounding no to Foxwoods’ plan for building a $1 billion casino just off I-495.

A referendum vote Tuesday resulted in 6,361 no votes and 3,480 yes votes. The measure was defeated 65 percent to 35 percent, according to complete unofficial results.

The casino measure turned out 57 percent of registered voters, which is less than the 73 percent of voters who turned out during the presidential election in 2012.

Subject: Foxwoods Statement on Milford Referendum Result

“We respect the choice Milford voters made today,” said Scott Butera, Foxwoods president and CEO. “Throughout this process we’ve gotten to know Milford and thousands of its residents. While we worked hard to offer a resort casino we believe would benefit the area, the town made a decision similar to many other communities across the state.”

The vote was a critical step to keep alive a development plan that is one of three in Greater Boston for a resort casino. After Tuesday’s vote, the only proposals left standing in Greater Boston are in Revere and Everett.

The plan faced ardent and organized opposition from Keep Milford Casino Free.

During the day Tuesday, supporters and opponents of the proposal exchanged verbal jabs as they waved at cars passing by outside the Milford Senior Center, on of three places where people are casting votes.

Joe Pandozzi, a retired member of the local labor union, held a sign in support of the casino.

He cited the jobs it promises to bring and the estimated $35 million the casino would give to Milford every year. “$35 million a year, you can’t beat that,” Pandozzi said.

Just down the sidewalk, Laura Scirocco said she doesn’t think the casino would be good for a relatively small town, population 25,500. “We’re not against the casino, that’s just not the right spot for it,” Scirocco said.

The casino would have been built on one of the last undeveloped tracts in town, she said, immediately adjacent to property owned by the New England Mountain Bike Association. The casino property is zoned to allow a business park at this point. She said the casino would be too large a development at 980,000 square feet.

It’s been an up-and-down seven day for Foxwoods and its development partners, known together as Crossroads Massachusetts LLC. A week ago, the developers faced probing questions by a state commission regarding Foxwoods’ continued loss in revenue at its Connecticut casino, the company’s debt load, and the developers’ inability to finance 55 percent of the Massachusetts casino.

Then, late Friday afternoon, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission allowed the project to move forward, albeit with conditions. Little more than an hour after the commission’s decision, Foxwoods announced Friday evening that it had secured much-needed financial backing for the project by a spin-off company of Penn National Gaming Inc., called Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc., which is a real-estate investment trust, or REIT.

Milford has about 17,400 registered voters and the referendum to support a casino on the land has generated more interest than a local election so far. In a typical municipal election, there might be about 200 absentee ballots cast before election day. More than 600 absentee votes were filed with the town clerk’s office as of last week.

The development complex would total 980,000 square feet, and would include a hotel, retail shops, restaurants, and 6,700 to 7,300 gaming positions — places to sit or stand at slot machines, video gaming machines, roulette, blackjack and other forms of gambling.

The site is on a 187-acre plot bordered by I-495, Route 16 and the town of Holliston.

A host community agreement calls for a one-time payment of $33.1 million and annual payments of $35 million. Opponents say that $25 million of the annual payment is taxes on property and the other payments either make up for lost state aid for schools, or are payments for extra services needed as a result of the casino.

Massachusetts passed legislation in 2011 that allows three resort-style casinos in the state: one in western Massachusetts, one in Greater Boston and one in the southeastern part of the state.

Foxwoods would have competed with a plan by Suffolk Downs racetrack to build a casino in Revere and a separate plan by Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn to build one in Everett. Site plans for all the casinos are due to the gaming commission by Dec. 31. The commission is expected to pick a winning plan in April 2014.

By Matthew Sturdevant, Hartford Courant

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