EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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August 7, 2013

Casino gets rebranding, local ire

ANDOVER — Last night was a busy one for the proposers of a casino in Tewksbury. They released a new name, gave locals a first look and heard a lot of neighbor opposition.

Just as high-profile meetings discussing the proposal were under way in both Andover and the project’s host community of Tewksbury, Penn National Gaming announced it has renamed the casino bid to “Merrimack Valley Casino.”

The proposal represents a 1,250-machine, slots-only casino at 300 Ames Pond Drive in Tewksbury, just south of the Route 495 interchange with Route 133, and hundreds of feet from the town line.

Penn also announced the casino will include “Flutie’s Sports Bar,” named after Boston College and New England Patriots legend Doug Flutie.

“We have spent the last three weeks asking local residents what they would like to see and the types of amenities they’d like offered at Merrimack Valley Casino,” said Jeff Morris, director of public affairs at Penn. “We are excited to bring their recommendations to life in a design that fits the town and Merrimack Valley. We are equally excited to partner with Mr. Flutie in the first of a number of amenities to be included at the facility.”

While the announcement was hitting the airwaves, Andover residents interested in learning more about the gaming proposal process were filling the second floor of Memorial Hall Library to hear a state presentation on how the town, now labeled a “surrounding community” by Penn, can influence the project.

The company listed Andover, along with the city of Lowell, as a surrounding community because the casino “abuts the Andover line. We recognize it will have an impact on Andover,” Morris said.

That gives town officials a chance to get in on state money earmarked for “mitigation” of problems caused by the presence of a gaming facility in the area, according to John Ziemba, an ombudsman with the state gaming commission who spoke at the forum.

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