Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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July 25, 2013

High-stakes battle brewing; Border casino proposal raising quick concerns

Border casino proposal raising quick concerns

Could Route 133 support a 24-hour, slots-only casino?

A gaming company from Pennsylvania believes so, and it is working hard to get a green light for a venture on Ames Pond Drive in Tewksbury, just through the woods from a few dozen Andover homes on the west side of town.

Penn National Gaming, a company with 28 gaming- and racing-related facilities nationwide, is proposing to develop a $200 million venture on a 30-acre site on the Tewksbury-Andover town line, just south of Route 133’s interchange with Route 495.

Its proposal for Hollywood Casino Tewksbury would bring 1,250 slot machines and more than 500 permanent jobs to the area.

Tewksbury stands to receive at least $4 million in revenue annually for hosting the development, according to the gaming company.

The proposal now goes before the residents of Tewksbury, where it will be put to Special Town Meeting and townwide votes in the next two months in advance of the state’s Oct. 4 filing deadline for slot casino proposals.

If approved at the local level, Hollywood Casino Tewksbury would face competition from at least four other proposals for the state’s one available slots-only license allowed under recent gaming legislation.

The prospect of a neighboring casino has raised concerns in Andover, with residents and officials alike wondering what the proposal holds in store for their town.

Several local and state officials, including selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli and state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, have already stepped forward to denounce the idea.

“I’d never vote for it. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the community,” Selectman Mary Lyman agreed.

Former state Rep. and Sen. Susan Tucker of Andover said every public official and business person in the region “should be speaking out against this misguided proposal.”

“Slots are a drag on the regional economy,” she said. When residents are dumping their money on slots, they’re not spending it in local restaurants, or buying a new car, or on education, for a reason.”

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