SBD/December 5, 2011/Facilities

Kraft, Wynn Face Opposition To Casino Proposal From Foxboro Residents

Kraft and Wynn projected $15M in revenue a year for the town of Foxborough

Patriots Owner Bob Kraft and Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn Saturday "pitched some cautious Foxboro officials on their plans for a hotel, a convention center, music hall, five-star restaurants and shopping," according to Cassidy & Sherman of the BOSTON HERALD. Foxboro Selectmen Chair Larry Harrington said, "They both acknowledged it’s going to be a tough battle to get it through, because there’s a lot of emotion around it." According to those present at the closed-doors meetings, Kraft and Wynn "projected $15 million in revenue a year for the town, and said as many as 10,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs with an average salary of about $40,000" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/5). In Boston, Shanahn & Goldstein note Wynn was "spotted on the sidelines at Gillette Stadium before yesterday's" Colts-Patriots game (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/5). Also in Boston, Brian MacQuarrie noted the "anticasino drumbeat escalated" Saturday in Foxborough and "neighboring communities, as organizers staged a protest on the town common, promoted two new websites to marshal their forces, and collected signatures to oppose a Las Vegas-style resort being considered for the town" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4). The BOSTON HERALD's Richard Weir noted Foxborough residents are "dead-set against a proposed billion-dollar gaming palace." Scores of "vocal Foxboro homeowners said they want no part of a gambling resort." Patriots Exec Dir of Media Relations Stacey James said that Kraft and Wynn "plan to meet with groups of five or six people at a time." James: "It's just an introduction, giving people the opportunity to ask some questions and have some answers directly from the principal of the project" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/4). In Boston, Peter Schworm noted the reaction "among many residents was decidedly negative." They "feared a casino would turn their town, already strained by the Patriots' presence, into an overrun spectacle" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).

QUESTIONS YET TO BE ANSWERED: In Boston, Bierman & Ross noted the partnership between Kraft and Wynn has "shaken up the competition for a coveted casino license." However, there remain "many unanswered questions, including whether a business relationship between Kraft and a casino operator could run afoul of NFL rules and whether the already congested area around Gillette Stadium can accommodate another high-traffic business." A proposal for a $1B Foxborough casino "would compete head-to-head against the similar-scale proposal at Suffolk Downs for one of three resort casino licenses authorized by the new state gambling law." Boston Mayor Thomas Menino "strongly defended Suffolk as the location of choice." He said, "We are the capital city. We generate the economy of Massachusetts. I’ve always said my position is (that) I’m in favor of a full casino at Suffolk Downs." Bierman & Ross noted Kraft's "biggest obstacle may be the National Football League, which has taken a fairly strong stance against allowing its owners to have financial relationships with gambling facilities." Kraft's relationship "could be allowed, however, because while he would own the land, he would lease it to Wynn, who would own and run the casino." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello Friday said that Kraft "had not given the league a formal proposal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).

NOT A DONE DEAL: In Boston, Wedge & Zaremba noted Menino is digging "in his heels in support of a gambling palace at Suffolk Downs." Menino: "Everyone's assuming there's going to be a casino in Foxboro. The media is assuming that it's a done deal. It's not a done deal. There's a long process to go. The traffic issue is a serious issue out there. You go to a game it takes you two-and-a-half hours to get out. There's a real history of issues with Gillette Stadium." Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's camp "declined to take sides." Patrick spokesperson Kim Haberlin said, "We do not have a position on any individual proposal. The independent gaming commission will conduct an open, transparent and competitive bidding process to determine which projects move forward" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/3). Also in Boston, Greg Bedard noted the NFL is "probably a little uneasy with a proposed casino directly across the street from Gillette Stadium ... but the Krafts wouldn’t move forward with this idea unless they knew they could do it." Bedard: "After what Robert Kraft sacrificed for the new collective bargaining agreement, we have a hard time seeing anyone standing in the way of the Foxboro casino -- besides the residents of Walpole, Wrentham, and Norfolk" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4).

SALVATION FOR STRUGGLING BUSINESSES? In Boston, Jenn Abelson noted Kraft's Patriot Place "adjacent to Gillette Stadium has not lived up to expectations." Retail analysts said that a casino across the street on Route 1 would "guarantee a flood of new visitors and help kick-start Kraft’s vision to make the property an entertainment destination." The mall has "struggled to find its identity with specialty merchants as competition increased from new centers like Legacy Place." The recession "only made matters worse: A number of Patriot Place tenants closed, and industry analysts estimated the vacancy rate pushed close to 20 percent at one point." According to Key Point Partners, it is now at "roughly 11 to 12 percent, still significantly higher than the 8.8 percent average at shopping centers in eastern Massachusetts." A casino across the street would "bring more shoppers to existing stores and entice new retailers to move into the property" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).

OTHERS PLACING THEIR BETS: In Miami, Douglas Hanks reported the Dolphins confirmed that the organization was "considering the possibility of leasing land near its stadium in Miami Gardens to a casino developer if Florida changes its gambling laws." Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Friday that the team "continues to view Florida’s gambling debate with a 'watchful eye'" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/2). Meanwhile, in New Jersey, John Brennan wrote under the header, "Meadowlands Casino -- Could It Happen?" There has been "political talk for years about the idea of installing thousands of slot machines at the Meadowlands Racetrack, turning the track into a racino." Brennan wrote, "It's difficult to picture Giants co-owner John Mara allowing a casino even if the team got a piece of the action." It "seems like Jets owner Woody Johnson might be more, well, pragmatic about the idea" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 12/4).

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