Plans for Mass. casino near Patriots' home halted

AP News
Posted: May 08, 2012 7:23 PM
Plans for Mass. casino near Patriots' home halted

Plans to bring a $1 billion resort-style casino to the New England Patriots' hometown have been suspended, Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn and the team's owner said Tuesday.

The announcement by The Kraft Group and Wynn Resorts came a day after Foxborough voters elected two members to the local board of selectmen who opposed opening negotiations with Wynn.

He had planned to build the resort on land leased from Patriots owner Robert Kraft across from Gillette Stadium, the team's home field.

Under a state law that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts, developers must first negotiate an agreement with the city or town where they hope to build a casino before they can apply for a state gambling license.

"With Monday's election, we believe the citizens of Foxborough have spoken," The Kraft Group said in a statement. "As we originally committed, we have heard them and respect their collective voice."

The statement said the group would be "suspending" its efforts "regarding a destination resort development."

A spokesman wouldn't say whether that means the proposal might come up again.

Newly re-elected Selectwoman Lorraine Brue, who opposed talks with Wynn, said she isn't convinced the proposal is totally dead.

"I guess I'm not clear yet," she said. "I would need to see something more definitive."

Stephanie Crimmins, who founded the group No Foxboro Casino in December, said members of the grassroots organization are "just absolutely thrilled" by the news.

"Yesterday's election was pretty telling and we were hopeful that this would happen, but none of us expected this to happen as quickly as it did," she said.

But some long-time Foxborough residents said they were disappointed.

Homeowner Mike Schuster said he would have been willing to put up with a potential negative like more traffic for potential benefits like new jobs, lower property taxes, and even entertainment and dining options he believes a casino could bring.

"With my waistline, I don't know if a buffet would have been a good thing, but it would have been a nice option," said Schuster, a 49-year-old software developer. Schuster said has been able to find only part-time work in his field after earning a bachelor's degree two years ago.

Joanne Hensas, a resident who formed what she called the "pro-information" group Our Town Our Vote a few weeks ago, said members were disappointed after campaigning for two board members who lost Monday's election after saying they favored talks with Wynn.

"I don't know what these people in charge think that we're going to be living on ... Hopefully, our taxes don't go up," Hensas said.

The proposal's suspension could improve the prospects for a proposed resort casino at Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Boston, which would have had to compete with the Foxborough proposal for the sole casino license available in eastern Massachusetts.

A statement from the horse track's chief operating officer, Chip Tuttle, said that their approach wouldn't change.

Tuttle said Suffolk Downs would work to earn a casino license "based on the merits of our development proposal to create a world-class destination in a world-class city."

He said they would focus on working with East Boston and Revere residents to make sure their proposal provided jobs, road improvements and tourism growth.