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Holliston

‘Casino night’ fund-raiser draws ire among casino opponents

For some in Holliston, “casino” has become a dirty word.

Recently, the subject has become so touchy that a “casino night” fund-raiser planned by the Holliston Business Association inadvertently raised eyebrows and drew at least one official complaint to the town.

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The brouhaha over an event meant to raise money for people in need highlights just how fiercely some residents oppose a proposal for a casino resort in nearby Milford. And changing the fund-raiser's name to “Monte Carlo Night” was apparently not enough of a disguise.

Holliston resident Christine Sarkisian wrote an e-mail on April 4 to Town Administrator Paul LeBeau, saying the theme of the fund-raiser “sends the wrong message to our citizens.”

“I was shocked to learn that the Town of Holliston will have a ‘Casino Night’ at our Town Hall,” she wrote. “I thought we were fighting against casinos in/near our town!”

She was referring to the complex proposed for a site in Milford off Interstate 495, near Route 16 and the Holliston line.The project is one of three competing for the single casino license to be awarded in Eastern Massachusetts. Although Milford voters must approve the plan for it to go forward, Holliston will have little say.

“I think there’s a basic principle that perception is reality,” Sarkisian said in a phone interview. “I really think that the choice to have a casino night was not a good one on the part of the Holliston Business Association, as good as their intentions might have been. They really should have thought longer and harder about it.”

LeBeau could not be reached for comment.

The nonprofit group’s attempt to raise money was never meant to be read as a casino endorsement, said John Drohan, president of the Holliston Business Association.

After several e-mails were exchanged on the subject, Drohan wrote a response to Sar­kisian and “other concerned citizens of Holliston.”

“The HBA is strictly an apolitical association — meaning that I cannot speak for the HBA as an organization on specific issues. I can, I’m sure, however, speak on behalf of the vast majority of the members that I know, and can say that they all are vehemently against the Milford Casino project,” he wrote. “Our event essentially is a fun way to get raffle tickets . . . and participate in a fun live auction. Almost every fund-raiser that I have ever attended in this town has some form of raffle.”

Ken Rockett, spokesman for Friends of Casino-Free Milford, said it was too bad that the fund-raiser became the subject of controversy. “I think the increasing awareness is good,” he said in a phone interview. “I think it’s just unfortunate that it came to this.”

The Holliston Business Association’s Monte Carlo Night will be held on April 26, 7 to 11 p.m., at Town Hall. Tickets are $40.

Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.
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