Foxwoods makes bid for Mass. gaming license amidst controversy

Foxwoods Resort Casino is joining the Massachusetts casino sweepstakes as a full partner and stakeholder in the Milford venture for the most lucrative casino license in the state.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission plans to issue a license at the beginning of 2014 for the Crossroads casino, advancing the timeline by three months.

Foxwoods representatives said they were excited about their new Massachusetts casino venture that would build a casino in Milford,  according to a Sunday email statement from Foxwoods.

“The pairing represents the foundation of a compelling case for a Boston-area gaming license,” read the statement. “Crossroads brings the Milford site, an excellent location for a gaming-focused development, and Foxwoods brings unparalleled regional gaming experience”. 

Foxwoods is in direct competition with Suffolk Downs, which proposed a casino in East Boston with Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts, which plans a casino resort on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett, according to information from the MGC website.

Multiple casino companies are competing for the Western Massachusetts resort license, including a project backed by Mohegan Sun  in Connecticut.

In January, PPE Casino Resorts was the last to apply to the sweepstakes, without a specific location. The developer is looking at the town of Danvers for a possible slot parlor at the Liberty Tree Mall.

The competition brings new attention to the debate over the comparative merits of urban and suburban casinos. Many groups said they oppose the gambling sweepstakes for a variety of reasons.

Carl Peirce, vice president of CasinoFacts.org, said he is strongly opposed to casino development in Massachusetts.

“Casino gambling and slot parlors are at best a zero-sum gain for the economy, and experience has shown that there has been moderate-to-heavy burdens placed on these communities after the first five years of economic shine has worn off,“ he said.

Peirce also said he has moral issues with spreading gambling across the Commonwealth.

“Gambling is a waste of good time and money, and is greed driven,” he said. “The industry is by nature predatory. It feeds off of the greed of others to their own detriment, only to feed itself. The majority of the industry owners not only do not gamble themselves, but also do not live near their own establishments. That should tell you something about the industry.”

John Ribeiro, chairman of the Committee to Repeal The Casino Deal, said the new casinos could create economic trouble for visitors.

“People will spend money at casinos that they were already spending,” he said. “Casinos are even permitted to lend money directly to their patrons for the sole purpose of generating more losses.”

Ribeiro, a resident of Winthrop, a neighboring town to Revere and East Boston where the Suffolk Downs and Wynn Resorts sites might be established, said he feared a negative community impact from the casino.

“Casinos don’t help their host communities. Almost every casino community has seen crime, decrease in home values, and a negative impact on small businesses,” he said.

Despite the controversy, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2014 fiscal  budget relies upon $83 million in gaming revenues tied to the licensing of gaming facilities.

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