Aside from a potential increase in local revenue, job creation and a larger business tax base, proponents of the Wynn-Kraft Foxborough casino venture are citing another positive: a potential increase to home values. According to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), a single-family home in Foxboro averages $416,000. This figure is based on selling prices of homes sold over the past six months.
"There are numerous studies that clearly show that casinos have either no effect on housing prices, or a modest positive effect, likely due to increase in employment and subsequent sales activity," said Scott Farmelant, a Jobs For Foxborough spokesman.
One such study Farmelant highlighted was conducted in 2005 by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Titled, "Betting on the Future: The Economic Impact of Legalized Gambling," the study analyzed whether legalized gambling in Massachusetts would be beneficial or harmful to a prospective casino community. Regarding home values in a casino community, the study found that casinos produced "a limited positive effect on some house prices.
"Median house prices in casino counties rose about $6,000 more than in non-casino counties," the study stated. "Median house prices in more urban casino counties were about equal to those in similar non-casino counties." The same was discovered in the 1999 National Gambling Impact Study, sponsored by former President Bill Clinton, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. "This study, which is considered the most authoritative and exhaustive peer-reviewed study of gambling in the history of the country, noted that counties that added casinos between 1991 and 1994 suggests that counties had relatively poor growth in property values before the introduction of gambling compared to similar counties and that the introduction of gambling increased the rate of growth of property values," Farmelant said.
However, there are a few flaws to Farmelant's argument, said Rich Owens, a member of the No-Fox-Vegas group. Each study cites growth in terms of a county, Owens said, and the Foxborough casino is not a county issue. "Further, Norfolk County is not a sparsely populated rural county," he said. "The 2010 census reveals a population of more than 670,000. That same study (Rappaport) also says no increase in employment, increase in bankruptcies and more crime," Owens continued.
Vivian Nelson, a Realtor with ReMax, has spent the past 33 years selling real estate in and around Foxborough. Lauded as one of the top-producing agents in ReMax New England, Nelson said the addition of a casino to Foxborough is "a complete unknown," regarding its affect on home values.
"Foxborough prices are where they are because of its location and proximity to Boston," Nelson said. "That mentality of closeness to Boston is what affects real estate prices. I'm not sure if the addition of a casino would affect them one way or another."
In the past 12 years, Foxborough has grown in infrastructure with the addition of Patriot Place, the new Gillette Stadium, a YMCA and a skating rink. Despite that growth, Nelson said, home prices were hardly affected, if at all.
"Through the years, we've maintained where we've always been," she said. "With all the amenities, (our home prices) haven't gone higher than the towns north of us: Walpole, Sharon, Norwood. And I would have thought we would have surpassed them by now."
On the reverse, Nelson said, Foxborough has always maintained higher home values than neighboring towns to the south: Attleboro, Mansfield and Wrentham. "Zoning laws are zoning laws," she said, "and Foxborough "has almost always enforced acre zoning."
The potential increase in traffic due to a casino has Owens - and several other anti-casino voices - concerned. With added traffic comes added noise pollution, and "it's generally an accepted fact that traffic and noise pollution are detrimental to real estate prices," Owens said. "If you live on North, Mechanic, South or Chestnut Streets, or another main road, it is reasonable to assume your property value will decrease with the increased traffic," he continued.
Nelson, like Foxborough resident Roslyn Liftman, believes that not enough information either for- or against - a casino, has been presented. "When you buy a home within close proximity to a highway, you have to expect that businesses are going to expand," said Liftman, 77. "I think we need to listen to Mr. Kraft and Mr. Wynn and digest their proposal," Liftman said. "Otherwise, how are we to make an educated decision without the facts?"