With cheers from hundreds in attendance, the Foxborough Selectmen voted 3 -2 Tuesday night to send a letter to Governor Deval Patrick, the state gaming commission and to the Robert Kraft and Steve Wynn organizations stating Foxborough doesn't wish to be considered as a casino host.
Selectman Lorraine Brue put the motion on the table to write the letter stating that the town is not interested being host to a casino. Selectmen James J. DeVellis quickly seconded the motion. Mark S. Sullivan cast the other vote, supporting sending the letter. Larry Harrington and Lynda A. Walsh cast the no votes.
As the vote is non-binding, it doesn't end the possiblity of a casino being built in Foxborough. The Kraft and Wynn organizations can still present their proposed plan.
The meeting at Foxborough High School was attended by a plethora of media outlets and approximately 700 people, from Foxborough and surrounding communities, many of whom reacted emotionally to the possibility of a casino coming into the region.
The casino is proposed across the street from Gilette Stadium on Route 1 on property owned by Kraft and would be developed by Wynn, a Las Vegas casino owner and developer.
The selectmen removed an item from the agenda in order to allow for a one hour public input session.
The majority of the statements made at the selectmen's meeting were warning the board against how a casino would change the character of the town and lower property values.
During public comment, Chair of the Board of Selectmen Larry Harrington banged his gavel and asked an emotional audience, “to please be respectful,” several times throughout the evening.
At the end of public comment when Harrington wanted to move on in the agenda, Foxborough resident Helen Kotowsky Merigan wanted to speak. Harrington warned her that the Chief of Police Edward O'Leary would remove her if she did not leave. After the crowd asked her to let her speak, Harrington allowed the five left in line to the podium to have one minute each to speak.
Merigan said “outsiders” would not care for the community they way residents do. She said, referring to Kraft and Wynn, “Two great white sharks are circling Foxborough.”
She said property values would decrease as the town budget increased. As Merigan went over her time and continued to speak, O’Leary asked her to step down.
Resident Andy Stone said, “Financial gambling is what got us into this why do we think it will get us out? Gambling is not recession proof.”
He noted that Atlantic City casinos are cutting their wages by 40 percent.
Walpole selectman Nancy Mackenzie said, “I have a huge concern about the negative impact a casino will bring to Walpole.
“We have all chosen to raise our families in suburban New England. A casino will change the character of all of our towns.”
Mackenzie asked them to consider what it will do not just to Foxborough but to the surrounding communities as well.
Harrington said he had never seen a more emotional topic in his 18 years serving the public of Foxoborough. He said he has received “hundreds of e-mails.” Many of those e-mails he said asked why the selectmen previously voted 5-0 in opposition of a casino in Foxborough and were now discussing the idea.
Harrington said some have accused him of being swayed by Wynn and Kraft with lure of a new position in one of the companies.
“No one from Kraft or Wynn has pressured me. I have a fantastic job and hope to keep until I retire. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Harrington said that the selectmen should listen to the casino proposal and those against it should not intimidate those who are open to the idea.
In his statement DeVellis said, “If we have an opportunity to end it tonight that’s what we should do”.
Sullivan said the pressure, constant phone calls and e-mails, “ruined my Christmas.”
“I put my phone in the garage,” he added. Sullivan said he was so upset with how the community became divided over the issue he went to Robert Kraft’s office and asked him to remove his proposal.
“It’s tearing my community apart,” he said.