Supporters and opponents of Massachusetts casinos came together for a panel discussion at Suffolk University on Thursday.
The forum – Casinos: Deal Us In? – was hosted by Sawyer Business School’s Center for Real Estate and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. It included two out of the three bidders for the sole Eastern Massachusetts casino license, as well as host community representatives. NECN Business Editor Peter Howe moderated the discussion.
“Now is the time to talk to the bidders,” Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, told attendees. “This is the moment of absolute maximum leverage. There will never be a moment like this again.”
Foxwoods Resort Casino CEO Scott Butera, who aims to build a casino off Interstate 495 in Milford, said he plans to keep 80 percent of the 200-acre site undeveloped, possibly enhanced with new hiking and biking trails.
"You don’t have to be the biggest game in town. It's good to be the nicest," Butera said.
But Steve Trettel, of Casino Free Milford, argued that the casino would do more harm than good for his community by lowering property values and increasing traffic and crime. “Why would we ever want to give up the semi-rural, suburban environment of our town?”
Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle hopes to convert the Revere and East Boston horse racing track into a Caesars Entertainment resort. He plans to partner with downtown Boston hotels, restaurants, and theaters.
Celeste Ribeiro Myers, of No Eastie Casino, said “Only one of these locations can be awarded a casino, if you consider it an award. However, it’s important to note that none of us has to have a casino.”
Meyers said her grassroots group has had difficulty getting information from bidders. “We can’t get access to the most basic data. We’re marching to an arbitrary timeline that’s been set by the Gaming Commission and our local officials.”
Everett resident Evmorphia Stratis is fiercely opposed to the casino proposal. Looking back at a trip she made to a Connecticut casino, she said, "What a boring, stupid thing to do with your life: Sit there, pull slots, drink, smoke. All the buses come in, all the people who are addicted, nonstop. Are you kidding me? This is what we're going to bring to Boston?”
Although the mayor and other officials strongly support the project, Stratis said no one should underestimate opposition in Everett.
Crosby noted that the plans won’t go anywhere without first winning voter support in host community agreement referendums. He said he expects the commission to award the slot-parlor license in October and casino licenses early next year.
The event was the fourth in a series of Building Boston 2030 public forums. For updates on the series, follow @SuBizSchool on Twitter and use the hashtag: #BuildBoston.