Foxboro's Casino Plague


(Photo by Alex43223/Wikimedia Commons.)

Sorry, Foxboro. Whether you wanted it or not, you’ve already gotten the worst of what a casino can bring to your town.

Sure, if they ever build the thing, there will be more traffic and the local culture will surely change (just as surely as the municipal coffers will bulge). But regardless of if that ever happens, the town’s already been ripped apart. It could take years to repair the cleavages. Really, for a small town, what could be worse than that? The latest manifestation of this came Monday, when a 40-year-old casino supporter named Michael Viscardi was arrested for threatening town selectman Mark Sullivan with death unless he changed his anti-casino stance.

The Sun Chronicle quotes the police report describing the incident:

Mr. Sullivan said that Mr. Viscardi was in a rage and cursing. Mr. Sullivan maintains that Mr. Viscardi raised his voice and stated, “If you don’t change your (expletive) vote … you’re a dead man”.

Sullivan also told the paper he’s taken the precaution of sending his family away to an “undisclosed location.” Undisclosed location! This is Foxboro, a town so small that the population quintuples on Patriots game days! But alas, this is hardly the only instance of casino controversy boiling over. Just last Sunday, the town manager was complaining to the papers about how the city selectmen are conspiring to fire him because he opposes the casino. This would be the same town manager who prompted Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner and one of the driving forces behind the casino bid, to file a civil rights suit against the town for not allowing his company’s representatives to speak at a town meeting. That suit sprung from a dispute between Kraft and the town over who controlled a couple of billboards on Route 1. Of course, in the end, it all comes back to the casino.

Kraft, and his partner in the casino push, Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn, haven’t even made a formal proposal yet, and the pitchforks are already out in Foxboro (on both sides). It’s reminiscent of the scene in Middleboro back in 2007, when that town ripped itself apart over whether it should host the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe’s casino. The town voted yes, only to have the Mashpees later back out of the deal. Talking to folks in Middleboro this past fall for a story I did on the tribe, it was clear that even now, almost five years later, the wounds still haven’t healed. They probably won’t in Foxboro for some time either, no matter what happens with Wynn and Kraft’s proposal.