TAUNTON, Mass. — On Saturday, Taunton residents voted to support the Mashpee Wampanoag’s $500 million casino proposal for their city, making it the first community in the state to say “yes” to gambling.
For many residents of Taunton, the casino can’t come soon enough.
“You got to just really think about the economical [sic] stimulation that’s going to happen from this casino,” said 28-year-old John Yukon outside a Starbucks in Taunton Sunday. He’s unemployed and sees the potential casino as his big break. ”I could be a blackjack dealer, start off low, get some experience. My ideal goal would be to go to Vegas.”
Yukon isn’t the only Taunton resident dreaming of a casino career. In a city with almost 9 percent unemployment, the potential for jobs won over voters. According to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s plan, the casino will create 2,500 jobs in Taunton with an average salary of $35,000 a year.
And that’s enough for many to overlook other potential problems like traffic and proximity to one of the city’s elementary school.
Joanne Matos lives in the area where the casino has been proposed. She has a good job and worries about the side effects of gambling, but says her city needs a boost.
“Something’s got to happen here,” Matos said. “It’s a way to make money for the town. I think something good can come out of it. It may not all be negative.”
Some residents are skeptical about the employment possibilities. Especially the wish that a healthy chunk of the jobs will go to locals.
But Taunton resident Ted Griffin is optimistic.
“I’m hoping that they will will follow through and hire people from the city of Taunton and not take them from other places,” Griffin said. “You have to hope that everybody does what they said they were going to do.”
But the casino is far from a done deal. That’s what gives hope to casino opponent Michelle Littlefield.
“It still has a lot of steps to go through before it can even see the light of day. We’re hopeful that things will be done right,” Littlefield said.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is pursuing a tribal casino which requires approval by the federal government, which could take years.
On Saturday, Littlefield gathered up all of the lawn signs opposing casinos in Taunton. The signs came from Foxboro, Freetown and Lakeville — towns where voters already defeated gambling plans. In the next few days, she’ll deliver the signs to activists in East Boston — the next stop in the casino debate. It’s there that Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment want to build a casino complex on the old racetrack.