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Milford Town Meeting takes a pass on casino vote

Posted by Leslie Anderson  May 21, 2013 12:01 PM

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Milford Town Meeting voters declined to take a vote on a nonbinding citizens petition to express opposition to the siting of a casino on 200 acres of land along Interstate 495.

By a better than two to one margin, Town Meeting members opted Monday to wait for more information before taking a vote on whether to go on record opposing the plans by Foxwoods to build a $1 billion resort casino planned for the land along the town’s border with Hopkinton.

The nonbinding citizens petition sponsored by Precinct 1 Town Meeting Member Richard A. Morrison would have been the first indication which way the town is going on the casino issue.

Those opposed to the casino had wanted this to be a message to the Board of Selectmen that the town is opposed, no matter what Foxwoods representatives may be able to provide in financial incentives.

“I’ve heard enough.” Morrison said. “I don’t think we should lose our values to someone who promises to pave our streets with gold.”

But Precinct 4 Town Meeting Member Brad Mattscheck (cq) said the issue is polarizing, and should go before the entire town for a vote when both sides have had a chance to present their case.

“Right now we only have really only heard from one side,” he said, indicating that the organized opposition to the casino has managed to get its side heard.

“A vote against this referendum would have been seen as being in favor of the casino, when that may not be the case at all,” Mattscheck said. He said he is personally opposed to siting a casino in Milford, but wants to hear more details of the plan before making a final decision.

“It would have been an exercise in futility to vote now,” he said.

In an email statement to the Globe following the vote, Scott Butera, president and chief executive officer of Foxwoods, which runs a casino in Connecticut, said the decision “will allow Milford residents to make an informed choice in accordance with the timeline set up the the Massachusetts Gaming Commission,” which is expected to make its decision on granting three casino licenses in the state early next year.

“We are currently engaged in extensive study of all factors involved in bringing a resort casino to Milford in preparation for a referendum later this year,” he wrote.

He added that he welcomes feedback from town residents so “we may proceed collaboratively, build trust and offer a resort that reflects the unique character of the community.”

Selectman Brian W. Murray said before Town Meeting that the nonbinding vote, if it were taken, wouldn’t affect his decision, saying a meeting with Foxwoods representative scheduled soon should provide more details.

“At that time we should get a better sense of how much progress has been made and whether all our questions and concerns can get answered within the tight timeframe,” he said.

The Milford proposal is competing for the sole Greater Boston license with Suffolk Downs, which is proposing an East Boston casino with partner Caesars Entertainment; and Wynn Resorts, which is planning a hotel casino on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett. Before a license is issued, local elected officials must enter into a host agreement with the casino and then voters must pass a referendum on the proposal in a general election.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.

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