SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 21, 2013

Our view: Keep slots discussion open to the public

The decision earlier this week by the gaming developer The Cordish Companies to pursue plans for a giant slots parlor somewhere in Massachusetts will certainly rekindle the debate in Danvers, one of the communities the company is considering as a location.

Let’s hope the town’s Board of Selectmen does a much better job of making the public a part of the conversation in the weeks to come. So far, the board seems more interested in secrecy than transparency. Earlier this month, selectmen met individually with Cordish officials so they wouldn’t be subject to the state’s Open Meeting Law, deliberately shielding themselves from public view on one of the most important issues to come before the town in decades.

Make no mistake, the stakes are huge.

Maryland-based Cordish is a serious player in the gaming business. Its affiliate, PPE Casino Resorts, laid out a nonrefundable $400,000 application fee for the chance to do business in Massachusetts. It has already developed Hard Rock-themed casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, Fla. It’s building a $500 million casino in Indianapolis and a $750 million resort casino in New York. Last year, the company opened a casino at the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md. Arundel Mills is owned by Simon Property Group, which also owns the Liberty Tree Mall.

The proposal for Danvers calls for a 24-hour-a-day, 1,250-machine slot parlor at the old Sports Authority site at Liberty Tree, next to Old Navy.

Danvers residents, understandably, have plenty of questions and concerns.

“When you live there and you understand the access in and out, you understand it (the traffic) would be like two days before Christmas,” Kimberly Donahue, a trustee of the nearby River Run condominiums, told selectmen at a meeting earlier this month. “And, to have the ambient light from 24/7 slot machines, and then you look at the kind of transient population that is going to be coming in and going out of there, we are going to need a lot more police officers, we are going to need a lot more vigilance. There’s just a whole host of situations that have concerns, really.”

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