Massachusetts residents spent around $850 million gambling at New England’s four casinos in Connecticut and Maine and its two slot parlors in Rhode Island last year, but this week voters rejected a proposal by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to build a $1 billion Foxwoods destination resort casino in their small Bay State town.
Voters in Milford, Massachusetts, defeated the casino proposal by a vote of 6,361 to 3,480—an almost 2-1 margin. Turnout was 57 percent of 17,400 registered voters, according to the town clerk’s office. The proposal was voted down in all eight precincts.
“We respect the choice Milford voters made today,” said Scott Butera, Foxwoods President and CEO said in a prepared statement. “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. Though the outcome isn’t what we hoped for, we have a high regard for the residents of Milford and will part ways having learned from the experience. We invite everyone to come visit Foxwoods in Connecticut.”
Casino-Free, a citizens’ organization that opposed the casino plan, celebrated its victory. “From our very first meeting held around a kitchen table, we acknowledged that we would be fighting a David vs. Goliath battle. We knew we would never be able to match the dollars of the Foxwoods’ campaign. We also knew that money does not buy you everything, and so we focused our efforts where they would count the most—on the people of Milford—by spreading our message slowly, friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor,” the group said on its website.
Foxwoods spent $792,000 between April and the end of October, according to campaign finance documents; Casino-Free Milford raised $23,770 for its campaign, the Boston Globe reported.
At the end of 2011, the Massachusetts government passed a law approving the creation of two commercial casinos, one tribal casino and a slot parlor on the expectation that the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that Bay Staters contribute to other states would pour into the state coffers.
But so far, only the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s $500 million destination resort casino, Project First Light in the City of Taunton in the southeastern part of the state, is moving ahead. The tribe and Gov. Deval Patrick signed a tribal-state compact last week and the casino project is moving toward a final Environmental Impact Statement and approval of its land into trust application. The defeat of the Milford casino proposal may be a blessing in disguise for the Mashpee’s Project First Light plan – Milford, just 33 miles away, would have competed with Mashpee’s Taunton casino. Mashpee Chairman Cedric Cromwell could not be reached for comment.
Although there have been close to a dozen casino applications, none of them have met with voter approval. On November 5, Palmer voters rejected a $1 billion Mohegan Sun casino by 93 votes. The company is seeking a recount. Also on November 5, voters in East Boston defeated a casino plan by the Suffolk Downs racetrack. A Suffolk Downs proposal in Revere, just over the Boston City line, and a Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett are still pending. An MGM Resorts casino proposal is still pending in Springfield.
West Springfield residents rejected a Hard Rock International casino in September, a slot parlor proposal in Millbury was withdrawn for lack of support, and another slot proposal in Plainville went down when the developer Ourway Realty was disqualified due to questions raised in its state background check, according to the Boston Globe.
Three competitors for the single slot parlor are still in the race: Penn National Gaming in Plainville, Cordish Cos. in Leominster, and Raynham Park in Raynham. The Massachusetts Gambling Commission hopes to award the slot license as soon as January and the resort casino licenses in April, according to the Globe.
When the Center for Policy Analysis released its 2013 New England Casino Gaming Update. In July, Dr. Clyde Barrow, the center’s director, commented that the location of Massachusetts’ three regional casinos and a slot parlor will dramatically impact Connecticut’s casinos and Rhode Island’s slot parlors. “Where the Commonwealth ultimately sites three casinos and the slot parlor will determine whether Massachusetts is able to reassert dominance over New England’s gaming, entertainment and tourism sectors by stemming the flow of Massachusetts spending into Connecticut and Rhode Island and by capturing additional spending from northern New England, Canada, and other visitors who come to Massachusetts for business and for its many recognized tourist attractions” Barrow said.
But with voters so far defeating casino proposals in Western Massachusetts and the Boston area, it remains to be seen whether expanded gaming in the state will have any impact at all on gaming in other parts of New England.