Wynn-Win Situation? Massachusetts Town Weighs Casino

Settled in the 1700s in the years leading up to the American Revolution, the Town of Foxboro, Mass., is best known today as the home of the New England Patriots.

Now a Las Vegas casino mogul wants to bring a new game to town -- gambling.

Just last month, after a bitter political battle, state leaders legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation allowing up to three casinos and one slots parlor, marking the biggest expansion in gambling since the lottery was created decades ago.

Gaming industry leaders are now in a race to win the right to build and profit.

Among them, developer Steve Wynn is teaming up with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, proposing a billion-dollar resort-style hotel and casino complex across from Gillette Stadium.

Wynn promises a facility that fits with New England sensibilities, nothing like the gaudy lights seen on the Vegas strip.

"This is not a vast complex. It is a complete integrated complex, but it enjoys a scale, will enjoy a scale when we present it, that is appropriate to Foxboro so it doesn't seem to be misfitting, oversized, out of scale or gross, crude. It will be lovely and it will be in the woods, a nice place to take your family for shows and for food and beverage," said Wynn, who believes the facility will benefit the surrounding community. "It will be a great place to graduate school, get a job and have a career."

Wynn is promising $10 million in tax revenue each year, tens of thousands of jobs and even free child care.

At a town meeting last week, residents were already taking sides. Some supported the plan based on the promise of many new employment opportunities. Others fear the community will be changed forever.

Foxboro Town Manager Kevin Paicos believes the stakes are too high. He says the mere discussion of a casino is tearing at the fabric of the small town.

"What I'm watching," he said, "is the disintegration of that sense of community over the promise of a great deal of money and it's been my judgment and I've said it strongly and vocally to the board that the disintegration of this community is not worth the money. I don't care if that money is $10 million, $15 million or $20 million. At the end of the day that money is not worth disintegrating this community."

The National Football League bans Kraft from owning a casino interest, but a deal would allow him to lease the land to Wynn.

"What concerns me is long unemployment lines and people being out of work and the economic hardship that's going to happen in the not-to-distant future if we don't get our act together in this country," said Kraft. "That's the biggest problem we have in America today -- is the lack of good jobs for Americans across the country and if we think we're insulated here, I think we're mistaken."

The Foxboro Board of Selectmen invited Wynn to appear at a special town meeting on Jan. 10, giving him the chance to convince residents the billion-dollar development plan will be a good deal for the community.

Even if Wynn manages to win over the people of Foxboro he's facing plenty of competition.

A newly formed Gaming Commission will oversee the bidding process to establish who will get to build a gaming facility, and where and when. The law allows for the casinos to be built in three different regions of the state.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino supports a plan to build a casino at the old Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is looking into building opportunities in southern Massachusetts and has special negotiating rights under the new law.