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Q & A: The case for a casino in Milford

Foxwoods Casino chief executive Scott Butera is known as a casino turnaround artist.

Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki

Foxwoods Casino chief executive Scott Butera is known as a casino turnaround artist.

Q. Is Milford a good location for a casino?

Butera: I think it’s an outstanding location. We really like this community, the family values. We want to build a grand resort and entertainment community center, not some slot warehouse. We want to do something for the community that has many different components, one of which is gaming, but also wonderful restaurants, shops, entertainment, a luxurious hotel with a spa and fitness center. There will also be a very nice outdoor experience where meetings can be held, and with walking and hiking trails and bike paths.

Q. What would be the most significant impact of the casino on Milford?

Butera: There will be two things. There will be a great social impact because we will create a really fun entertainment community center. People will come to Milford to enjoy the facility and enjoy things that you might have had to go to a city to do.

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And from an economic standpoint, there will be a tremendous impact. We will provide 350 different types of jobs in a wide range of positions, from working in the casino to hospitality, retail, construction, engineering, finance, administration, you name it. In addition to creating jobs at our facility, a lot of other jobs will be created through our commitment to spend $50 million in the local area supporting local vendors.

In addition, the host community agreement, which is an ironclad, legally binding document, provides for us to pay over $30 million in cash to the town every year. That is roughly $1,200 per capita, which we hope will have a big impact on property taxes. It will also have an impact on improving the town’s infrastructure and schools. There is also a lot of new infrastructure we will be creating.

Q. Is the Foxwoods water-mitigation plan feasible for the long term?

Butera: We’ve been working with TetraTech and with the consultants the town hired. I believe we’ve demonstrated on several occasions that the water supply is ample. Both sides have concluded that the town’s water supply can support our project, and beyond.

Q. Should residents of Milford be concerned about the social impacts on their town if a casino is build here?

Butera: The answer is no. It is not the type of facility, it is the quality of how it is run that affects a community. A hospital or a school run poorly could be a problem. The type of operation, and the track record of whether they have done what they say, is important.

We’ve run a luxury resort for over 20 years, one of the biggest. We’ve been incredibly responsible. We’ve been proactive in giving back to the community. We have also been one of the leaders in addressing gambling problems. We started the self-exclusion list (for people who want to be excluded from the casino), and we have a senior officer who reports directly to me who works with problem gambling issues. We have pamphlets everywhere, and every one of our employees is trained about how to recognize and assist a problem gambler. Problem gambling is a big problem, it is not good for business, and we take it very seriously.

Q. How would a casino change the community of Milford?

Butera: In a lot of ways, but I don’t think what we are planning will change the make-up of the community, but instead enhance it. Look at the location, it is right on 495, we can do things in a very contained way. It’s not like we’d be right on Main Street in the middle of town. It shouldn’t do anything to change the old-time feel or family values of the community. The town is going to need money in the future, and it is extremely rare that you would have a business with this kind of economic give-back interested in moving in.

Q. Is Foxwoods a good business partner for Milford?

Butera: We’ve operated a luxury destination resort for over 21 years, successfully developed 8,500,000 square feet of resort space at an investment of over $3 billion, employed 7,000 to 10,000 employees annually, and during that time paid $3 billion in taxes to the state of Connecticut without any problems. In Pennsylvania there was a casino venture which Foxwoods had a minority stake in. It was before my time, but my understanding is that the partnership couldn’t be financed, and Foxwoods pulled out amicably, and paid all of the filing fees. I have no knowledge of what happened in the other location . . . before I arrived at Foxwoods. The individuals responsible for those projects are no longer at Foxwoods.

Q. Is there anything about this casino that you see as a negative to the community?

Butera: From my viewpoint, if it’s done correctly, there should be no negative impacts.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.
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