BROCKTON, Mass. – The fate of a proposed $650 million resort casino for the Brockton Fairgrounds rests with city voters.
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The southeastern Massachusetts city, perhaps best known as the hometown of boxing great Rocky Marciano, is holding a special election Tuesday on the proposal, which calls for a red brick casino complex housing a 225-room hotel, an event center and a number of restaurants on about 45 acres.
Voter approval is a critical step for the project to be considered for a state gambling license. The Brockton plan is competing with proposals in New Bedford and Somerset for Massachusetts' third and final resort casino license.
Supporters say the project represents well-paid jobs and additional revenue for a city sorely needing both.
"What we have is spread very thin," said Brian Currivan, a city resident who was volunteering at the pro-casino "Yes for Brockton" campaign headquarters Monday afternoon. "The police department is so understaffed. The schools have teacher layoffs coming up. There are potholes that need fixing."
The project promises to create about 1,400 temporary construction jobs and 1,500 permanent casino jobs paying an average of $50,000 a year. Qualified Brockton residents would get hiring preference for casino jobs.
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Additionally, Brockton's "host community agreement" requires the developers to pay the city $3 million upfront and at least $10 million a year when the casino opens its door.
Critics are concerned city youth will suffer: The casino would be located next to Brockton High School.
"The location is horrible. It's bad enough kids don't want to go to school. Now you're going to put a casino next door?" said Yvonne Pierre, who was among a trio of women on Main Street on Monday who said they opposed the plan. "Maybe if they wanted to put it elsewhere — like the other side of town — I wouldn't mind. I understand the job opportunities. But where it's at? That's just not right."
Opponents have been vastly outspent by Mass Gaming and Entertainment, the project's developer and a subsidiary of Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based company that operates casinos in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The company has spent at least $1 million on campaign advertisements, staff and other costs; the opposition group "Stand UP for Brockton" has spent just over $3,000.
Massachusetts has already awarded resort casino licenses in the state's western and eastern regions: an $800 million MGM project in Springfield expected to open in late 2017 and a $1.7 billion Wynn Resorts project in Everett scheduled to open in 2018.
The state's final resort casino license is reserved for the southeast, a region that could become the state's most crowded.
Plainridge Park Casino, a slot parlor in nearby Plainville, says it's on track to open June 24.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, meanwhile, is hoping the federal government designates land in Taunton as part of its tribal reservation so that it too can build a resort casino.
And the owners of Rhode Island's Newport Grand are contemplating moving the slot parlor closer to the Massachusetts state line. (Twin River Casino, the slot parlor's owners, is already located near the state line in Lincoln, Rhode Island.)
Lance George, Plainridge Park's general manager, said Monday he isn't too focused on the region's increasingly murky gambling picture.
He and slot parlor officials gave media a peek at the $250 million project, which already boasts a casino floor of some 1,250 video gambling machines, including electronic versions of traditional table games like blackjack, roulette and poker.
"I don't believe anyone at this point can tell you how this ultimately ends up," George said. "We're just going to do what we can out of the gates to control our circumstances."