Et tu, Hopkinton? Town piles on after casino coup

In happier times -- Scott Butera (left), chief executive of Foxwoods, and developer David Nunes, before Nunes lost control of his Milford casino project.
In happier times -- Scott Butera (left), chief executive of Foxwoods, and developer David Nunes, before Nunes lost control of his Milford casino project.
SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

Hopkinton selectmen are swinging for the fences to derail a Foxwoods casino plan in nearby Milford. In a letter today to the state gambling commission, the selectmen seized on a shake-up in the ownership group pushing the Milford project to argue that the proposal is just too sketchy to win a license. The board helpfully suggests the commission save everybody a lot of trouble and just kill the project right now.

That’s not going to happen, but the selectmen are right that the Milford casino proposal has taken a surprising turn.

As I wrote last weekend, the developer who personally nursed the project along for five years, David Nunes, apparently fell victim to a coup by the very partners he recruited to help finance the undertaking. Nunes informed Milford officials last week that his partners had stripped him of his authority. Nunes also declared he no longer has faith in the project.

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Hopkinton is about 6 miles from the proposed casino site and officials have long been opposed to a gambling resort so close to their town. Hopkinton argues that “Mr. Nunes’ ouster should serve as the last straw” for the Milford proposal, known as Crossroads.

“The mysterious circumstances surrounding his abrupt replacement only reinforce the belief that the Crossroads Massachusetts application should be immediately disqualified from further consideration,” the selectmen urged the commission.

Foxwoods would disagree; the company maintains it is charging ahead and competing for a casino license.

Maybe there’s something in the air, because the Milford shakeup was the third in a surprising run of ownership changes in casino projects that had been stable for years.

Gary Piontkowski, the public face of Plainridge Racecourse and of the track’s quest for a slot parlor license, retired last week for health-related reasons.

Two weeks ago, one of the largest investors in the Suffolk Downs resort casino bid, Vornado Realty Trust, pulled out because Vornado executives refused to submit to background checks required by the gambling commission. Vornado’s 20 percent stake in the track is being transferred to a blind trust, until it is sold.

All three projects are expected to move ahead with new people in the key spots.