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Milford casino proposal may get regional look

Posted by Leslie Anderson  December 31, 2009 12:10 PM

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Members of a group that organizes area community leaders say they want to start a panel to examine the effects of a proposed casino in Milford, citing the need for a unified voice for towns that won’t get any tax money from a casino but would still feel its effects.

“The impacts are going to be spread out: traffic, impact on [public safety] services,” said Ken Soderholm, co-chair of the MetroWest Growth Management Committee. The committee has members from nine towns including Ashland, Holliston, Natick, Wellesley, Framingham, and Southborough. “Our whole reason for being is to be a conduit for regional concerns.”

The likelihood of a casino in Milford is uncertain, since many factors must align for its inception. First, the state must legalize casino gambling. Then, developer David Nunes of Colorado and partner Bill Warner, head of Warner Gaming in Las Vegas, would have to vie against other developers wishing to win a coveted casino license. Residents would have to approve the casino through a referendum.


But if Nunes and Warner get the go-ahead, a Milford casino — with an initial estimated project cost of $750 million to $800 million — could mean 7,000 jobs, a dozen restaurants, 5,000 slot machines, and 2,000 hotel rooms.

All of this would have drastic implications for both Milford and surrounding towns as the volume of people using area roads and services rises dramatically.

“I know there’s been outreach to Milford from a couple of different communities. They felt like they haven’t got much back in response,” said Soderholm. A coordinated group, he said, may help towns leverage more weight to get Milford to listen to their concerns. “It might be more effective to get people to the table.”

Soderholm said the executive committee discussed the casino group idea at its December meeting and will present the issue for a vote by all members of the MetroWest Growth Management Committee at its January meeting.

Other towns are also considering a coordinated effort regarding the casino issue, including another regional group that’s under the same umbrella organization as the MetroWest Growth Management Committee.

“The [Southwest Area Planning Committee] discussed the issue of casinos in the [Route] 495 region at their December 17th meeting,” said Amanda Mantone Linehan, communications manager for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the umbrella organization of the committee.

She said that the MetroWest Growth Management Committee and the I-495 Partnership, another regional organization, invited the Southwest Area Planning Committee to a late January forum to discuss the regional implications of a casino.

Soderholm said he looks forward to coordinating efforts with other groups. “The concerns transcend borders, no question, so I think it’s a great opportunity for these regions to communicate with each other,” he said.

Soderholm said the committee has no position on the casino, and that’s the point. Before the group can decide whether to support a casino or not, he said, the casino group’s members must do extensive research.

“There’s a lot of information that needs to be received,” he said.

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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