Just when you think an issue is gone, it becomes relevant again before you know it.
While many in Foxboro thought the issue of the local impact of a racino on Route 1 in Plainville was dead, Penn National’s interest in setting up shop on the property has restarted the conversation.
After dealing with the possibility of a resort casino across from Gillette Stadium in late 2011-12 and the initial application for the state's only slots license from Plainridge Racecourse, it can be understood if some members of the board of selectmen are not thrilled to address the issue again.
“This has become an issue in every community. We thought it was gone, it’s like a plague, and now it’s back,” selectmen chairman Mark Sullivan said.
In early August, Plainridge Racecourse’s application for the slot license was denied by the Mass. State Gaming Commission. Earlier this month however, Penn National signed an option to buy the track in their third attempt to obtain a gaming license in Massachusetts.
Thoughts on the project were mostly withheld by the selectmen due to an upcoming meeting with Penn National.
“Lets sit tomorrow with Penn National through town manager and reserve our comments until we hear what they are going to do and hear what their proposal is,” selectman Jim DeVellis said.
Interim town manager Bob Cutler also said he would speak with town managers from neighboring towns to see what they are looking for in mitigation and what their concerns are.
According to Mike Davidson, chairman of the Foxborough Racino Review Committee, the impacts on Foxboro remain the same as they did when Plainridge Racecourse was applying for the license.
“It will be the social impact. You can expect a five percent increase in problem gambling that will decrease to three percent over time,” Davidson said.
He added that there may be some traffic impacts but that would be masked by other shopping centers and development in the area.
The only differences in Penn National’s application is a 150 room hotel and a small stage in the building for local bands.
The committee added that they do not think there will be much impact to property values in Foxborough.
“We really don’t think there is going to be an issue with property values. The facility itself is shielded enough from the town of Foxboro. There is no light pollution, there is no real good access to it,” Davidson said.
Other members of the group a were worried that the theoretical racino will get bigger over time.
“They’re not local people and what we know about casinos is that they start small and build over time. What some of us are concerned is that while this initial proposal is modest, it will get bigger,” committee member Stephanie Crimmins said.
Sullivan added, "What hasn’t grown? Have you seen a company that hasn’t grown on Route 1? It’s what they do, they expand."
Selectman Ginny Coppola was worried about the way Penn National applied for the slots license.
“They had applied without a location, they never had a location when they applied,” Coppola said. “That just never seemed right to me. They went to Tewksbury and Tewksbury said no. They then went to Plainridge and they said yes.”
Despite objections locally, Plainville voters approved a host agreement with Penn National this month with 76 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of the aggrement. Short of an effort to ban casinos statewide, there are no options for Foxboro to stop the a racino in a neighboring town.
“That’s their right to self determination and the town of Plainville wants this,” Davidson said.
The selectmen voted 5-0 to draft a letter to Penn National stating they are an affected community, similar to one sent to Plainridge officials earlier this year.