Activists with Casino-Free Milford, gathered at a bowling alley, were ecstatic as the results came in Tuesday night.
In precinct after precinct, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal backed by Connecticut-based Foxwoods Resort and Casino.
Casino-Free Milford co-chairman Steve Trettel was overcome as the size of the victory — almost two-to-one — became clear.
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“You know what? I’m almost crying,” Trettel said. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this is happening.”
The Milford defeat, combined with the losses in East Boston and Palmer, amount to a losing streak no one anticipated when state lawmakers legalized casino gambling in 2011.
In town after town, local concerns like crime and traffic have dominated. And Milford was no exception.
Andrew Johanssen, a factory worker who commutes to nearby Holliston, said the town could not have handled thousands more cars on the road.
“An establishment like a casino does alter the character of a community and, just, we in Milford don’t want the character of our community being altered by what Foxwoods was proposing,” Johanssen said. “That’s really the bottom line.”
Foxwoods and its partners had promised at least 3,000 full-time jobs and $34 million in annual tax revenue for the town. But those inducements weren’t enough.
At a more subdued pro-casino gathering down the road, supporters dined on chicken and penne and lamented what might have been.
Scott Butera, president and CEO of Foxwoods, said he respects the will of the voters but said there are a lot of misconceptions around casinos.
“A lot of myth,” he said. “And I think, you know, people kind of played into the fear factor and, you know, didn’t really take the time to understand that that’s not what we’re about.”
State law calls for one resort casino in three regions of the state.
Foxwoods was one of three outfits competing for the Greater Boston casino license, expected to be the most lucrative. But now, it’s unclear if the region will land a casino anytime soon.
East Boston voters rejected a proposal at the Suffolk Downs racetrack and the company is now trying to squeeze a casino onto its land in neighboring Revere.
In Everett, Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn has local approval for a $1.2 billion casino project. But he still has to pass a background check with state regulators.
Those regulators have proven tougher than many in the industry expected. But as Milford residents are the latest to show, voters may be the toughest critics of all.