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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Easton and Raynham Park struggling to reach a financial agreement on slots parlor

Easton and Raynham Park struggling to reach a financial agreement on slots parlor

By Jennifer Bray
Posted Jan 07, 2014
Easton, like other communities surrounding Raynham Park, is hoping to cash in on casino money.

But the clock is ticking as Easton and Raynham Park try to reach a deal.

Raynham Park is vying to be chosen as the state’s lone slots parlor. The proposed $227 million slots parlor at the former dog track sits just a 10th of a mile from Easton’s town line.

Fifty percent of the traffic generated from that gaming complex in Raynham would go through Easton, according to Raynham Park’s own traffic study.

The town of Easton has been negotiating with Raynham Park on terms of a potential surrounding community agreement. The agreement would entitle the town to money for dealing with issues stemming from the nearby slot parlor, such as more traffic. If a decision is not reached, both sides will go to arbitration.

The biggest sticking point right now is the amount of money the town would receive, said Easton Town Administrator David Colton.

“Our proposal is about $50,000 apart right now,” said Colton on Monday about the surrounding community agreement between the town and Raynham Park. “Fifty thousand dollars a year over 20 years is a lot of money,” he said.

Traffic is a major concern said Colton. “It’s not simply the volume of traffic, it’s the spin-off from the volume that affects the town in significant ways,” he said. “It creates the need for more traffic stops and the need for more police.”

Slots parlor traffic has the potential to bring more impaired drivers as well as more drivers who have let their licenses, insurance and registration lapse, said Colton.

Those traffic stops run longer since they require police to take the driver’s vehicle off the road, get it towed and bring the driver to the police station, Colton said.

The other traffic impact would be the intersections of Route 138 and 106, where much of the traffic is expected to travel, said Colton.

“They only have so much capacity and if that capacity is all used up by Raynham Park then what about growth in Easton? ” said Colton. “It constrains us and diminishes our ability to improve property and increase our tax base.”

There are some other sticking points that have not been ironed out yet as well, said Colton. The town wants a new police cruiser every five years, while Raynham Park only wants to buy a police cruiser one time, said Colton.

Colton’s other concern is the impact a casino could have on housing and property values. For that reason he wants Raynham Park to pay for a three-year housing study.

Trying to reach an agreement has been a time-consuming process, said Colton. “I think we have an agreement but the devil is in the details,” he said.

If a surrounding community agreement is reached between the town of Easton and Raynham Park it would then be voted on by the town’s selectmen.

“We’ve been working a long time toward this agreement,” said Easton Selectmen Chairman Colleen Corona. “We want to make sure we’ve done the best job we can insulating our community from the impacts of the proposal.”

Other towns that are working on surrounding community agreements with Raynham Park include Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Middleboro and Taunton.

In November, Raynham Park signed an agreement with Taunton that would guarantee the city $200,000 a year to mitigate the impact of the proposed slots parlor. Raynham, as the host community, would get approximately $1 million annually.

Officials from Rehoboth, Berkley and Lakeville are also worried about the impact of the casino, specifically the traffic. They are being labeled as “nearby communities” and will take a wait-and-see approach as Raynham Park develops “nearby community” agreements, said Tom Bonner, the vice president and general counsel for Greenwood Racing, which is partnering with Raynham Park in the proposed Parx Raynham slots parlor venture.

He said that Raynham Park and Stoughton have signed a nearby community agreement that calls for the two parties to meet again in the future to analyze the impact and negotiate mitigation payments if necessary.

The other two communities seeking the only license for slot machines are Plainville and Leominister.

The state Gaming Commission is expected to make a decision on the slots parlor by the end of February or in early March.

Three full-fledged casino licenses are allowed in Massachusetts under the gaming law.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has proposed a casino in Taunton.


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