EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 18, 2013

Cashing in

Economics play a big hand in casino vote


“Certainly, there will be some (negative) impact, but there will be such a tremendous economic impact to the area with the jobs that will come forth, with the infrastructure improvements that are planned, as well as the mitigation and additional transit options,” Andrea Leary, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Transportation Management Association, said.

“It’s definitely going to be an economic boom for the area, and it will be a destination location.”

But state Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), whose district includes Tewksbury and Andover, argued that the Merrimack Valley Casino “is not a destination casino, which means the majority of those who will use it will be local residents.”

“So, we must ask ourselves, where will all of this money be coming from?” he said.

Rafael Abislaiman, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, agreed. He said there will be a boost in jobs, but those voting on the proposal should follow the money.

“Let’s face it. What it produces is gambling and more people are going to lose than win,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be a net gain, but there’s definitely going to be an income redistribution from the losers to the casinos and their employees.”

State Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) also registered his opposition to the plan, saying the casino bid is “a fundamental argument of fairness” to the region’s residents, particularly those who may soon neighbor it.

“The people invested in their homes and neighborhoods, and built their lives, in that area,” Lyons said. “The last thing they thought was going to come into that neighborhood was a slots parlor.”

Several area business groups have avoided weighing in on the proposal. Joe Bevilacqua, CEO of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, said his organization elected not to take a position on the Penn National’s plan or casinos in general. Repeated calls to the Greater Haverhill and Greater Lowell chambers of commerce, Andover’s Economic Development Council and the Andover Business Community Association were not returned.

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