A community opposition group is already forming in Somerset, another dumb location for a Slot Barn!
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No, it's not what you think. I'm not powerless over the lure of slot machines, video poker or even Keno. You won't find me standing ahead of you at a convenience store selecting scratch tickets at sloth-like speed while you wait patiently to pay for your bread and milk. Nope, I'm not that guy.
By Mike Moran
Opinion Columnist Posted Feb. 11, 2015 at 4:25 PM
Updated Feb 12, 2015 at 11:09 AM
OK, I admit it. I may have a gambling problem.
No, it’s not what you think. I’m not powerless over the lure of slot machines, video poker or even Keno. You won’t find me standing ahead of you at a convenience store selecting scratch tickets at sloth-like speed while you wait patiently to pay for your bread and milk. Nope, I’m not that guy.
And table games, like blackjack and roulette, do nothing for me. In fact, I once watched silently for an hour as real gamblers played at a craps table. I walked away knowing nothing more than I did when I arrived.
I admit that I’ll lay down a couple of bucks to play Powerball when the jackpot climbs to gigantic levels. Do I expect to win? I understand that the odds are better that I will be struck by lightning while riding a unicycle up President Avenue.
So what is the nature of my gambling problem? Actually, it’s more like a casino problem. You see, like the hallucinations that appear before the eyes of an exhausted, parched desert traveler, I see casinos everywhere. Until recently, they were permanently imprinted on my mind, as politician after politician promised me that a casino in the SouthCoast would someday exist.
There was the riverboat casino the folks from Circus Circus told us would chug up and down the Taunton River. Then there was the land-based casino at Fall River’s former municipal airport. We all recall the New Bedford casino that former Gov. Bill Weld and former Mayor Rosemary Tierney said was a sure thing in 1993. It might be at the site of the municipal golf course, we were told. Then again, it might be on the waterfront.
Rem-ember the one Mayor Will Flanagan tried to create in Fall River’s reservation-biopark area? How about the casino at the site of Fall River’s New Harbour Mall? That was a great one, right? The CEO of Foxwoods even showed up at Government Center to tell us how swell it would be, until he changed his mind and started courting New Bedford. It was then that talk about a Fall River waterfront casino, possible at the failed Hess LNG site, commenced — another false alarm. We also have the Mashpee Wampanoag casino proposal in Taunton, strategically placed near the well-travelled Route 140-Route 24 interchange. And Brockton wants to come up to the plate and take a swing.
All these casinos, ready to sprout from the ground like weeds, right?
Now we’ve got the latest entry in the contest to create the biggest and best imaginary casino. This one, we’re told, will be nestled in a spacious tract of land off Route 103 in Somerset.
Let me ask an impolite question. Does anyone really, truly believe that a casino will be constructed on Wilbur Avenue? Have you ever travelled over the Braga Bridge into Somerset at 5 p.m. on a weekday and taken the ramp to Route 103 East? Did the sluggish crawl of the traffic make you want to get out of your car and walk to your destination? Now imagine what that trip will be like when a casino opens a quarter mile down that same road.
Before you get too concerned though, consider a few things. Somerset residents would have to vote at least three times before the first shovel enters the ground. According to Don Setters, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, we could expect a town meeting vote on a proposed zoning change. Then there would be a vote to sell or lease the property for use as a casino. Finally, a vote on a host community agreement would take place.
Assuming all that receives voter approval, and I doubt it will, there would then be a proposal to the state Gaming Commission for a license, followed by an endless string of hearings, meetings, environmental permitting, and other bureaucratic steps.
I’m not anti-casino and never have been. But we’ve been told too many times that “the casino” was coming, and it simply hasn’t happened. And while I understand the motivation of some within Somerset’s corridors of power to consider any idea that will help make up the lost revenue from the town’s two power plants, casino talk is always a risky proposition.
A small grassroots opposition group has started to form in town, but I don’t think too many Somerset residents take the casino plan seriously — not yet. Who knows, some residents may even like the idea.
But you can bet on this: Political leaders who unfairly raise expectations that a casino is coming may be making the biggest gamble of all — one that could have a profound effect on their own political future.