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Casino pitch: tax revenue of $10m

Kraft offers town annual estimate

A representative of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said yesterday that the casino envisioned by Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn would generate at least $10 million annually in municipal taxes for Foxborough, a sum that would equal nearly one-third of the current local tax levy.

Kraft’s company issued the estimate in a statement last evening as part of its continued effort to win local support, but did not explain how the figure was calculated. Kraft hopes to lease Wynn the land for a casino near Gillette Stadium.

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“We have been consistently asked by town officials to bring specific, not abstract, proposals forward so that the town can exercise its traditional process for vetting them,’’ Dan Krantz, director of site development for The Kraft Group, said in a statement yesterday. “That is precisely what we are trying to do with this opportunity. It has the potential to generate a minimum of $10 million annually in direct tax revenue for Foxborough to use to improve schools and services, lower property taxes, or in any other way the town sees fit.’’

The figure does not include potential mitigation payments or infrastructure improvements the town could ask Wynn to provide on top of the annual local tax payments, if the town decides to negotiate an agreement to host the project.

A casino resort and hotel complex would generate considerable local property, meal and room taxes, but “it would take the examination of the real proposal to verify a number that high,’’ Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said, referring to the estimate.

Wynn, one of the most prolific developers of the Las Vegas strip, says he would spend $1 billion to build the project.

The proposal has stirred resistance in Foxborough from those who say a casino would ruin the character of the town. Those opponents, who quickly organized into a citizens group, drove much of the public debate earlier this month after Wynn’s plans became public.

‘Ten million dollars? It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? How can we not be dazzled by the huge numbers being thrown around?’

Stephanie Crimmins Area resident
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Since then, Wynn and the Kraft Group have begun to ramp up their campaign to build support for the project. For the plan to move forward, it would need Foxborough’s endorsement in a townwide vote.

Last night, the town’s Advisory Committee voted to ask the Board of Selectmen to reconsider its vote on Tuesday to allow Wynn to make a pitch for the casino at a Jan. 10 public hearing. The Advisory Committee, which reviews the town budget, voted 11 to 0 to ask selectmen to let town residents vote on a casino before Wynn makes his presentation and to kill the proposal if residents vote against it, said John R Gray Jr., the committee chairman.

The tax revenue estimate was the second carrot the developers dangled before townspeople in recent days. Wynn has also said the project would create “up to 10,000 permanent jobs,’’ including those directly employed at the casino and those working for suppliers and service vendors.

He made those assertions in letters mailed last weekend to 8,000 Foxborough households.

The state’s new casino law authorizes up to three resort-style casinos, in three different regions of the state, and one slots-only gambling parlor. Development rights will be awarded based on competitive bids for each region.

The law put Foxborough in the same region as Boston, meaning that the Wynn project must not only win over local residents, but must also compete with a high-profile proposal for Suffolk Downs.

Opponents in Foxborough say no amount of money is worth damaging their town.

“Ten million dollars? It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?’’ said Stephanie Crimmins, a spokeswoman for the anticasino group, No Foxboro Casino. “How can we not be dazzled by the huge numbers being thrown around?

“But for the people who grew up here . . . the question is: What would be left of the character of our community when there’s a billion-dollar casino in the town?’’ she said.

Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos, who has publicly opposed the casino plan, said yesterday that the $10 million figure strikes him as a reasonable estimate, “based on the size of the facility they are talking about.’’

The chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Lawrence Harrington, a vice president for internal audit at Raytheon, suggested the eventual tax benefits could be even higher.

“Add personal property tax, meals tax, and hotel tax, and you are on your way to $12 million to $15 million annually,’’ said Harrington, one of three selectmen who on Tuesday voted to go forward with a public airing of the project in January. “Not to mention anything the town would receive from the casino revenue or mitigation we would require from the developer.’’

Selectman Mark Sullivan, who also supported having Wynn present the project in January, was unimpressed with the estimate, which he characterized as an unverified statement from the developers.

“In all truth, I’m not interested in hearing pieces of this proposal; I want to hear the whole thing,’’ Sullivan said. “It’s too vague.

“With every increase, there’s a decrease,’’ he said, “and $10 million would get swallowed up in [increased costs for] public safety.’’

In addition to jobs and tax revenue, the developers will try to sell the project to the community based on its design. Wynn, the designer of many elaborate and glitzy buildings, has said he would be ready to present a concept next month that would be in keeping with the character of the town.

“We’ve heard the opposition, and we’ve also heard from many who want to see a conceptual design for the property and hear the details of the proposal before making a decision on whether to move forward in the process,’’ said Krantz.

“Wynn Resorts is working toward that, and we will work with the town to assist with the process in any way we can.’’

By a 3-to-2 vote, the Board of Selectmen set a Jan. 10 public hearing date for Wynn to present his designs to the town, more than a week earlier than the date Wynn had asked for.

Travis Anderson of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Michele Morgan Bolton contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com.
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