BOSTON — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Las Vegas resort developer Steve Wynn have withdrawn their proposal for a $1 billion resort-style casino on land near Gillette Stadium.
News that the Kraft-Wynn casino proposal was suspended came as a shock to one of the town’s most ardent casino opponents, Holly Steel, with the group No Foxboro Casino.
“We are ecstatic. We didn’t expect this news and quite honestly we are tremendously grateful of Mr. Kraft’s decision and the fact that he did hear the voice of the people of Foxborough,” Steel said.
No Foxboro Casnio is a grassroots group that opposed the plan on the grounds that it would change the character of the town, increase traffic, and lower home values. Wynn Resorts says a casino would have brought up to $15 million a year in revenue to the town and created jobs.
But after a five month battle over the proposal that played out in newspaper ads, direct mailings and yard signs, Kraft and Wynn dropped their proposal Tuesday afternoon.
The Kraft Group and Wynn Resorts say they heard the “collective voice” of the townspeople who Monday elected two candidates to the board of selectmen who are anti-casino. That makes the board 4-1 in opposition to hearing a casino bid.
In December, the board was split 3-2 against hearing the Kraft-Wynn proposal.
No Foxboro Casino founder Stephanie Crimmins says the election turned the tide.
“We had almost a 60 percent voter turnout — that is unheard of in recent history. So the town spoke loudly and the win was decisive,” Crimmins said. “It wasn’t even close, so I think both of those things really came into play.”
The sudden reversal in Foxborough could give other casino backers pause, says Ginny Coppola, the newly elected member of the Foxborough Board of Selectmen.
“Everyone was watching Foxborough,” Coppola said. “Grassroots is very powerful, especially when it’s pure grassroots and that is what we were.”
The state’s new gaming law requires a casino developer to negotiate an agreement with the host community before it goes to a vote of residents. After a regular meeting of the gaming commission, Chairman Steve Crosby said the collapse of the casino proposal in Foxborough proves the system is working.
“The Legislature was very, very clear about local control,” Crosby said. “We are completely supportive of that. This cannot happen if a community doesn’t want it. And if Foxborough has made the decision that it doesn’t want it, that’s its prerogative and more power to them.”
The withdrawal of the Kraft-Wynn proposal leaves only one developer bidding for a casino in the northeast region — Suffolk Downs in Boston.
In a statement, Suffolk Downs says its approach is unchanged: it remains focused on working with neighbors in East Boston and Revere to convince them the proposal will deliver jobs, road improvements and other economic benefits.