EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 7, 2013

Expanded casino plan receives support

Expanded proposal stirs up both excitement, criticism

SALEM — The stakes have been raised, but there are plenty of eager players as Millennium Gaming prepares to unveil its plans tomorrow for a $600 million-plus casino.

News that the Las Vegas-based firm hopes to open a much larger casino complex than planned at Rockingham Park created some excitement in the community yesterday.

Millennium co-CEO Bill Wortman said the proposal will include a 300-room hotel and an entertainment venue that would accommodate up to 1,500 people.

Millennium previously proposed a $450 million complex, projected to create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs. The latest plan will be introduced at The Rock at 7 p.m.

State and local officials are excited, saying this latest proposal would be the type of economic boost both the state and Salem needs. Business owners and managers are optimistic as well, hoping the thousands of visitors to the casino each year would benefit them as well.

Salem’s five selectmen and most of its nine state representatives support a casino. Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is a co-sponsor of legislation that would bring a casino to town.

“Anything that will bring jobs and more revenue, and bring up the tax base is definitely a good thing,” Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. said.

Many Salem residents share that view. Eighty-one percent of voters in the March election supported a nonbinding referendum calling for a casino in town.

But some officials remain staunchly opposed to a casino in Salem, saying it would be harmful to the New Hampshire way of life.

State lawmakers are debating legislation, Senate Bill 2, that would pave the way for a single, highly regulated casino in the state. The Senate has passed the bill and the House is to vote on the bill later this spring.

One strong supporter is Sen. James Rausch, R-Derry. He’s excited about the expanded casino plan, saying it would provide even more jobs and a bigger economic impact.

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