Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

July 25, 2013

Town must be proactive on casino proposal

News of a 1,250-slots casino proposed for just over the town line off Route 133 in Tewksbury took many people by surprise last week.

Indeed, few have entertained the notion of gambling as an option in the local area — preferring to imagine casinos sprouting up in places like Springfield, Foxboro, East Boston and Raynham.

The suburbs north of Boston seem like such an unlikely choice for a casino that some even questioned whether talk of a $200 million gambling and entertainment complex eyeing Tewksbury was even real.

But make no mistake, it’s real and it appears to have quickly won the support of Tewksbury town leaders who see the project as a way to revitalize their local economy.

And who could blame them. Penn National Gaming, the Pennsylvania-based outfit that is banking its casino hopes on Tewksbury, has waved a carrot in front of the town that’s hard to resist. Penn is promising Tewksbury at least $4 million annually in revenue for hosting its casino, not to mention the creation of hundreds of jobs, influx of thousands of people with money to spend and mitigation of any issues its arrival may cause.

The Hollywood Casino Tewksbury proposal — targeted for a 30-acre site on Ames Pond Road just south of the Route 495 interchange on the Andover line — still has a long road to go before it can even think about hitting the jackpot. Tewksbury must first adopt a zoning change for the site by a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting next month. Then, voters must approve a ballot question in September allowing a casino to open in town.

From there, Penn National would have to beat out at least four other companies for the state’s one available slots license.

But Penn National is not new to the gambling game. The company has 28 gaming- and racing-related facilities nationwide. No doubt its representatives didn’t pick Tewksbury on a whim.

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