Reporting Jon Keller
BOSTON (CBS) – A proposal to build a casino and convention complex in Foxboro is setting off alarm bells among Boston political leaders.
Boston leaders want to see a casino at Suffolk Downs, but there’s more at stake here than just the casino rights.
Supporters of a Suffolk Downs casino envisioned a steady stream of conventioneers from Boston emptying their pockets at the facility in between meetings and walking the Freedom Trail. Now, it appears they may face stiff competition from Wynn and Robert Kraft for both the gambling and convention business.
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“Foxboro is very strategically located to become a terrific regional convention and resort center,” said Steve Wynn.
That regional convention center would be fueled by a casino and compete with Boston.
Boston power brokers figured that would fit just fine at Suffolk Downs, just a dice roll away from the airport and a limo ride from the city’s own convention complex it seems that the team of Kraft and Wynn have a two-front war on their hands.
The stakes are high for East Boston.
“Boston’s an economic engine for the state, we’ve already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a convention center that already exists,” says Rep. Carlo Basile (D-East Boston).
Mayor Tom Menino does not see Foxboro’s potential convention facility as a threat.
“Oh no, because they want to be in the center city, they want to be where the action is,” says Menino. “The casino will be there, but Boston has everything else. We don’t need it.”
Convention industry analyst Steve Poftak says if Boston doesn’t feel threatened by the prospect of a Wynn-backed convention complex here, they should be.
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“You’re gonna have people who want to come to Boston because it’s Boston always, but for those people who are shopping on price or don’t mind being a little further away from the city, clearly this could be a potentially very attractive option for them,” says Poftak.
Poftak adds the Foxboro convention competition potentially undermines arguments that we have to pour more public money into the Boston Convention Center to bring in more visitors, yet another in what’s sure to be a string of unintended — and unexpected — consequences of opening the state up to casinos.