One after another, state and local officials, residents, businesspeople and a senior citizen went to the microphone at a public meeting Tuesday to tell members of the state Gaming Commission they want a slots parlor in Plainville.
They said the plans by Penn National Gaming Inc. will not only be a boon to the small town by boosting revenue, but will reenergize small businesses and shops, and save harness racing at the last track in the state where it is still operating.
More than 75 people packed the meeting hosted by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Wrentham to hear input from area residents about plans by Penn National’s plans to build a slots parlor at the Plainridge Racecourse off Interstate 495 and Route 1 about five miles south of Gillette Stadium.
“This will be a death sentence for our town if we don’t get this, we’ll lose the track, we’ll lose the horses and we’ll lose the farm,” said Dale Bergevine, a lifelong resident of Plainville.
State Representative Elizabeth A. Poirier, Republican of North Attleborough, said Plainridge is the perfect site because of its location at the intersection of several major highways and proximity to the Comcast Center, Gillette Stadium, Emerald Square mall and the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets.
“It seems to make a great deal of sense that this would become a destination area,” she said. “I can’t imagine in all my wildest dreams that you would pick any other area but this one.”
The commissioners are expecting to make a decision on which of three applicants will receive the lone slots license on Jan. 9, according to Commissioner Enrique Zuniga.
Penn National’s $225 million plan is competing with the Cordish Cos., which has proposed a $204 million complex in Leominster, and Raynham Park and casino partner Greenwood Racing’s $227 million proposal.
Zuniga said the commission will consider numerous factors when making its decision, including finances, revenue, mitigation, economic development, building and site design, and a general overview of the entire project.
Just one area resident stood in opposition to the plans, Erin Earnst of Foxborough, who said the scope of the project has been changed and expanded from what was first proposed, and worried that social issues including problem gambling and drunken driving would be a problem.
“This will change the character of the whole area,” she said.
Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen P. Crosby said the Legislature took that into consideration when writing the law, stipulating that $15 million to $20 million be set aside from gaming revenue to be used on programs to address social impacts of the casinos.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.