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Milford Casino Vote Divides Residents05:10

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Carol Ratcliff urged voters to reject a proposed $1 billion resort casino, but her sentiment is not shared by all Milford residents. (Rachel Gotbaum/WBUR)
Carol Ratcliff urged voters to reject a proposed $1 billion resort casino, but her sentiment is not shared by all Milford residents. (Rachel Gotbaum/WBUR)

Residents of Milford, a town of about 27,000, take pride in what they say is a close, diverse community. But a proposed $1 billion casino has left residents divided.

This weekend it would have been hard to miss people gathered at intersections, carrying signs and shouting at traffic. Supporters and opponents of the resort-style casino proposal were out in force ahead of Tuesday's vote on whether to approve the proposed complex, which would feature 10 restaurants, 500 hotel rooms and several thousand slot machines.

Foxwoods Resort Casino of Connecticut, an investor in the project, has spent millions to win over Milford residents.

Outside the Hoboken Citizens Club in Milford, Janet Lucas was sitting on a folding chair calling voters on behalf of Foxwoods, asking them to vote in support of the casino. Inside the club, a meal of penne and meatballs provided by Foxwoods was being enjoyed by supporters, including Maria Valenca, a volunteer for the campaign who has lived in Milford for 42 years.

"If we don’t grab this opportunity we are not gonna have another one in our lives," Valenca said. "If the casino don’t stay someone else is going to be there. If it's Section 8, it will be worse. If it’s a mall, it be worse. If it's office, the same because they’re not give us $34 million for the roads, they’re not gonna give us the money they do and especially for jobs."

Foxwoods president Scott Butera drove up from Connecticut for a final push.

"There's going to be a lot more to it than just gaming," Butera said. "There’s going to be great hotel rooms, restaurants, retail and then there's going to be a huge economic benefit. Providing over $30 million upfront to the town and over $30 million a year in annual payments, investing over $100 million in roadways and we’re gonna be providing money for things like schools and fire and police. It's a thing I think the citizens deserve and hope they understand that."

Less than a mile from the pro-casino rally, residents who oppose the plan mobilized in a park downtown.

Geri Eddins has lived in Milford for 20 years and is helping spearhead the vote no campaign. She says the casino is expected to bring seven million visitors a year to the region and that will mean more traffic and more crime.

"The more I read I just knew that a casino was not the right decision to make for the town of Milford," Eddins said. "What we were talking about was sacrificing our quality of life."

Foxwoods says the casino will bring needed jobs to the area — some 3,500 full- and part-time positions. But David Morganelli, an attorney who grew up in Milford, says the gaming industry comes with too much baggage to be worth the trade off.

"We want the kind of industry that produces jobs but with not a lot of the ancillary costs and concerns that come along with those jobs," Morganelli said. "A workforce that can work here, but it doesn’t increase our traffic, it doesn't bring in additional drugs and prostitution where the police are forced to be reactive and not proactive."

Even if voters in Milford approve a casino, they will be facing competition. Only one license will be issued for a casino in eastern Massachusetts. Everett voters have already approved their casino plan and city officials in Revere hope to win a battle to make Suffolk Downs another contender.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will make a final decision in the spring.

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This program aired on November 18, 2013.

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