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Massachusetts voters reject Foxwoods' Milford casino proposal

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published November 19. 2013 9:00PM   Updated November 20. 2013 2:55PM

Milford, Mass. — Voters here Tuesday halted Foxwoods' bid to extend its brand into the Bay State, soundly rejecting its $1 billion resort casino proposal.

The vote was 6,361 votes to 3,480 votes, a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent. A turnout of 57 percent, while robust for a local election, was lower than many had expected.

Scott Butera, the Foxwoods president and chief executive officer, conceded defeat about 20 minutes after polls closed. Citing unofficial results at that point, he told scores of supporters that the Foxwoods Massachusetts plan would not move forward.

"We had a project we thought would make a lot of sense for Milford, but as we always said, if it didn't work out, we'd move on," he said. "Things happen for a reason. Life is long — and somehow, somewhere, maybe we'll find a way to get it done."

Casino-Free Milford, an anti-casino group that had sought to poke holes in the proposal for months, celebrated the outcome. The group most recently had been critical of the Foxwoods partnership's 11th-hour announcement Friday that it had secured financing for the project.

William Buckley, chairman of the town's Board of Selectmen, also had raised questions about the belated financing arrangements.

"I think it spoke volumes for the development itself," Buckley said of the lopsided vote. "If there's one person I can attribute it to, it's David Nunes."

Nunes, the partnership's chief development officer, had first brought a casino proposal to the town in 2008 and didn't partner with Foxwoods until early this year.

"The more he spoke, and the more we heard about their inability to get financing, the more of a long shot it became," Buckley said.

Selectman Brian Murray said that from the start, Foxwoods had difficulty winning people over and "tapping into what Milford thinks is important."

Foxwoods Massachusetts was pursuing the one casino license the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to award for the Greater Boston region. Now, in the wake of the referendum, two possible candidates for the license remain.

Wynn Resorts has proposed a resort casino for the City of Everett, while the owners of the Suffolk Downs race track are trying to salvage a proposal that would be located in Revere.

Mohegan Sun, which lost a casino referendum in the western Massachusetts town of Palmer earlier this month, is said to be negotiating a partnership deal with Suffolk Downs.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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