, Salem, MA

January 23, 2013

Some betting on casino firm's idea, others worried

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — DANVERS — The proposal to put more than 1,000 slot machines at the Liberty Tree Mall hit the jackpot with some in Danvers yesterday. Others expressed concerns, however, about the effect on teens of a “slots parlor” where Sports Authority once sold sneakers and basketballs.

A decidedly nonscientific survey yesterday revealed a lot of enthusiasm for the idea as a way to generate business and jobs.

“Why not?” Bob Petrosino of Beverly asked as he ate at New Brothers Restaurant in downtown Danvers. “Gambling brings in revenue.”

“I’ll go with that,” agreed Mike Panzero, a Danvers resident. “The mall down there” — he shook his head sadly — “really. I’ve been down there. ... It’s not the Northshore Mall.” A builder, Panzero shook off initial doubts about the idea when he considered that a revitalized mall could only help business for everyone.

Nearby, however, Danvers banker Mary McLemory complained about the very idea of gambling at the mall, where movie theaters and stores attract lots of young people.

“Is nothing sacred?” she asked. “It’s a place where kids hang out. We don’t need it.”

McLemory said she’s not “generally” against the so-called one-armed bandits or even gambling.

“But it’s good to have it in a segregated area,” she said.

Danvers resident Amy Singleton, who was eating with her young son, had the same reaction.

“I like slot machines,” she admitted with some enthusiasm. “But I don’t know about having them in Danvers. I don’t know if it’s the right place. ... I think it could bring the wrong people.”

Singleton, who lives near the mall, added that it might make a worrisome situation worse. “I think there’s a lot of trouble now at the Liberty Tree Mall,” she said, citing concerns about car and house breaks in town.

John DiPaolo made his case for slot machines as he left Brothers, but he began with a caveat heard from several others: “Trafficwise, it could be a problem. Not a good idea.” Nevertheless, he continued, he’s a fan of such outlets.

“And it would create revenue for the city. And probably a few jobs. ... I think it would be good.”

His lunch companion, Megan Chamber, looked skeptical.

“I don’t think the mall is a good spot,” she said, raising concerns about the teens who populate the mall now. Even when DiPaolo suggested that entry to the slots parlor could be restricted to those 21 or older, she was unimpressed.

“Kids would try to sneak in,” she said. “... A casino isn’t a family place. And the mall is supposed to be a family place.”

Enjoying his lunch, former Salem Mayor Stanley Usovicz acknowledged, “It’s not necessarily the best of form of economic development.” On the other hand, he said, “It will create activity.” And that could benefit the area.

The idea pleased Kary Andrinopoulos, the owner of New Brothers Restaurant.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “It will create more jobs, more taxes for the town — taxes from the business and the building.” At the same time, he also raised concerns regarding the traffic and suggested it should be carefully managed.

Despite the concerns about the impact on teens, when asked about the morality of allowing gambling in the area, no one raised an objection.

“Everybody is free to do everything they want,” Andrinopoulos said.