EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 24, 2013

Future uncertain for The Rock

Death of casino bill disappoints many in Salem


“In the end, I don’t think they had the best interests of Salem in mind,” Callahan said of all the developers. “I’m not sure anyone would like to see a 38-story anything here.”

Salem’s five selectmen said yesterday they were disappointed in the House’s vote, especially since a casino seemed like the best alternative for Rockingham Park.

A casino would probably have the least impact on town services, compared to a major residential or business complex moving to the site, Selectman Stephen Campbell said. That’s because the casino would have to provide its own security and would be billed for emergency services, he said.

Without a casino, Campbell said, he doesn’t see The Rock remaining in its current state for long.

“That ‘s just too valuable a property to just sit there,” he said. “I always thought the casino was the best opportunity for Salem and the state.”

Selectman James Keller agreed.

“It’s certainly a blow and disappointing and perplexing,” he said of the House vote. “I think certainly a casino was the most viable from an economic perspective.”

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves is among those who believe lawmakers ignored the 81 percent of Salem voters who said they wanted a casino at the polls in March.

Of Salem’s nine representatives, only five voted to ignore the House joint committee’s recommendation that the bill was inexpedient to legislate. Had the full House rejected that recommendation, some 19 proposed amendments would have been heard, opening up the possibility of passage.

Those five lawmakers, all Republicans, were Reps. Gary Azarian, Ronald Belanger, Robert Elliott, Anne Priestley and Joseph Sweeney.

Three Salem Republicans agreed to accept the recommendation, effectively killing the casino bill they were Reps. Patrick Bick, Marlinda Garcia and John Sytek. Rep. Bianca Garcia did not vote.

“That’s real discouraging when you have four people who didn’t listen to the people who wanted a casino,” Hargreaves said. “When are they going to wake up?”

Selectman Michael Lyons said Salem officials will continue to work with Callahan as he plots the future of Rockingham Park.

“We have worked with them with the zoning in the past and we will work with them in the future,” Lyons said.

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