They were the last of the four Massachusetts towns surrounding Plainville to sign their agreement, but nevertheless, Foxboro has a surrounding community agreement with Plainridge Racecourse operator Penn National.
The 5-0 vote at Monday night’s selectmen meeting authorized chairman Mark Sullivan to sign the agreement. With Plainville and the four surrounding communities with agreements, Penn National can go forward in the process to obtain the state’s only slots parlor license for the harness racing track located in Plainville.
“I think it’s a giant step from where we started. I think it’s the best we were able to ask for for this community,” Sullivan said.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to award the slots license in early March. Raynham Park in Raynham and Cordish Companies in Leominster are also vying for the license.
As part of their agreement, Foxboro will have access to an $250,000 escrow account to be funded by Penn National to cover the costs of the social impacts of the slot parlor when the project is operating. The other three towns deemed as surrounding communities do not have the account as part of their agreements.
If after two years the impacts are not identified and the funds are not used, the account will be closed but Penn National’s obligation to mitigate the town for problem gambling and crime does not goes away.
“From our perspective if the amounts of DUIs coming from Plainridge needs more Foxboro police officers and that cost is $400,000, then we’ll pay $400,000. That’s our agreement,” Penn National vice-president of corporate development Alex Stolyar said.
The two-year limit for the escrow account was a worry for some members of the board who were unsure if the effects of gaming would be seen during the time period.
“What if we find out 5-6 years from now we have social problems we can contribute to gambling and we have to hire another social worker? Is that a cost to the town?” Selectman Ginny Coppola asked.
According to Town Council Dick Gellerman, Penn National would have to pay for the cost of the social worker but would have to agree with the need. If not, the town could take the issue with evidence to a third party arbitrator.
“It may take six years, it may take 10 years. The absence of the escrow fund does not take away their (Penn National) obligation to mitigate the damages,” Gellerman said.
The escrow fund is not the only source of funds for the town. If during the first two years the down can identify social activity or criminal harm from the project, the costs can be paid for by funds from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission before touching the escrow funds.
Despite the town’s racino committee report discussing the potential of a decrease in home values, Gellerman said it was difficult, if not possible to tie an increase or decrease to home values to Plainridge.
Residents in town will have access to a job fair and hiring preference will be given to residents from Plainville and the four surrounding communities.
For traffic, Penn National will pay for a traffic study from a third party group to set a baseline at the opening of the project with another traffic study to follow one year later to see if there is any impact. 84 percent of the traffic to Plainridge is expected to come from Route 495.
There will also be an effort to cross-market and promote mutually agreed upon Foxboro businesses and Plainridge will work with any live-entertainment venues within Foxboro on non-compete and cross marketing agreements. The non-compete agreement and attempt for cross marketing mainly affects Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place. A similar agreement is in place for the Comcast Center in Mansfield.
The plans for live entertainment at Plainridge is currently a 100-120 seat lounge with free acts.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to be notified of the agreement on Dec. 31.