Will a Casino Tear Foxboro Apart?

The big news on the gaming front from over the holidays was the Foxboro selectmen’s decision, by a 3-2 vote, against entering into negotiations with Steve Wynn on bringing a casino to town. Despite that, Wynn and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose land the casino mogul would be leasing, are likely to fight on to bring a grand (err, “bucolic“) gambling hall to Foxboro. The detail that stuck with me from the coverage of that vote, though, was how town selectman Mark Sullivan, who was the swing vote on the issue, said he was being so bombarded with calls over Christmas that he had to finally just leave his phone in his garage.

I couldn’t help but wonder, just how many people were actually calling Sullivan? “I would get 20 to 50 phone calls left on my cell phone, which is the only one I have,” he told me this morning, speaking, naturally, on his cell phone. On top of that, he says he was getting 50 to 100 emails per day.

Now, though, things have calmed a bit. Yesterday, Sullivan said he got only two or three calls. “The emotion, for now at least, has slowed down. It was really ripping the town apart,” Sullivan said. “I never expected anything like this when I ran for selectman. We’ve had some controversial things in the past, but this is town altering and life changing forever. I was pretty shook up for a couple of days.”

Casino debates have a way of tearing towns apart (just ask folks in Middleborough), so whatever happens in Foxboro, the healing process will likely be a long one. For now, though, the most immediate issue facing Sullivan and his colleagues is that the casino issue has distracted them from the rest of their work. “We’ve absolutely gotten nothing done in the last six weeks as a board,” Sullivan says. That puts the selectmen behind the eight ball on budget season and a few other projects in town that could very much use their attention. You can be sure that if problems start to arise from the board being so distracted, it’ll be only a matter of time before Sullivan’s phone starts ringing.