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Milford casino bid hit by shake-up

David Nunes, the Colorado developer who has worked for five years to build a casino in Milford, has lost control of the venture, having been stripped of his authority by his investment partners in a dispute.

What this means for the Milford proposal is not yet known, though Foxwoods Resort Casino, which joined the project in February, maintains it is enthusiastic about moving the plan forward and competing for a casino license.

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Nunes alerted Milford town officials in a letter dated April 4 that he would no longer be active in any negotiations with the town on behalf of the casino proposal.

He said his partners informed him March 18 through a “cease and desist” letter that he no longer had authority to act on behalf of the partnership.

“I have shed any faith in the project given that the investors and Foxwoods have not invested the time to get to know the people of Milford,” Nunes wrote to the town.

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In a brief interview Friday night, Nunes said he was “disappointed in how things came about.”

“The partners decided they wanted to take things into their own hands,” said Nunes, who added that he did not know who would be directing the casino effort.

Nunes announced in January that he had recruited as a partner Robert Potamkin, an auto dealership magnate who holds a stake in SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia. He has other partners as well.

On Friday, Nunes said he is still the biggest shareholder in the casino effort, but “it remains to be seen” if he would remain a stakeholder.

Nunes, who lives near Aspen, Colo., is originally from Bolton and graduated in 1978 from Nashoba Regional High School.

The developer has been trying to build a casino in Massachusetts since at least 1996, when he was working with the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah.

Nunes has been the public face of the Milford project since 2008, three years before the state even legalized casino gambling

Milford Selectman Dino B. DeBartolomeis said Nunes is a “sincere person” who had worked hard to build relationships within Milford.

“For this to occur, I guess is none of our business, but when you have a relationship with someone and then they’re gone, you have to start over getting used to a new set of people,” he said Friday. “Timing-wise, this probably is not the best thing.”

The board is expecting on Monday to hear an update on the project from Foxwoods representatives, he said.

The Milford project is competing for the sole Greater Boston resort casino license with Suffolk Downs, which is proposing an East Boston casino with partner Caesars Entertainment; and Wynn Resorts, which is planning a hotel casino on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett. The state gambling commission is expected to award the license early next year.

Foxwoods chief executive Scott Butera would not comment Friday night on Nunes’s dispute with the partners. But he sought to dispel any fears that a shake-up could slow the casino proposal.

“We’re full speed ahead on the project,” said Butera. “We are as committed as we can be. We’ve spent a lot of money already on this. We have a great team and we feel very good about it.”

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com.
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