The Berkley, MA town selectmen are asking Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye to include them in impact studies and negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag and their plans to build a mega-casino Indian reservation resort complex in East Taunton. Berkley recognizes that Taunton will not be the only impacted community. Are the other neighboring communities of Dighton, Raynham, Lakeville, Middleboro and Norton also preparing?
Well documented independent research from respected, non-casinofunded sources clearly shows neighboring communities also suffer from increase crime, traffic and others costs with casino gaming developments. Casino promoters claim "mixed" data proves the casinos are not the cause, but reductions in murder rates while clearly casino-linked crimes like rape, assaults, car thefts, robberies and DUIs increased are easily measured. Studies of casinos in suburban areas similarly show a corresponding loss in property values based on residential proximity to a casino. The casino promoters only talk about studies done on remote location casinos where property values started at zero. These property value losses can be measured miles beyond the borders of the towns in which the casinos are located.
Take the case of the small community of Ledyard, Connecticut. Their downtown center is located about five miles from the Foxwoods Indian Casino resort complex. Ledyard conducted a study of the impact andcosts they bear as a neighbor to the destination resort casino – similar to the one proposed for Taunton by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe – and found the following results:
- 24 hour a day traffic increases resulting in increased traffic control and road maintenance
- Increased motor vehicle accidents resulting in the need for more police enforcement and emergency response
- Increased drunk driving (DUI) incidents – which they note, now occur at the highest frequency rate of any location in the state – with corresponding police and emergency medical service response costs
Ledyard could directly quantify the costs of these new burdens by comparing their costs and incidence rates in previous years. In addition to what the town characterizes as serious negative impacts on their quality of life of residents, they could attribute more than $2.2 million in direct additional costs to the town annually. The broke them down as follows:
Cost to town
Social Services/ Assistance
Legal expenses (lawsuit with tribe over attempted annexation of town land)
Local roads and bridges
Public safety & traffic
Total 2000-2001 costs incurred:
Ledyard further noted annual erosion in their property tax base concurrent with the casino development and annexation of previously taxed lands for the purposes of expanding the Pequot Indian reservation.
The town acknowledges that the casino has brought new jobs to the region, but notes that the majority created were in the low $15,000 to $25,000 per year range. They noted that the low paying jobs and increase problem gambling associated with the casino proximity were linked to a significant rise in demand for local social services and general assistance programs.
In addition to moving from one of the lowest DUI rates to the highest in the state, Ledyard experienced a 300 percent increase in local crime rates. This increase happened during the same time when crime rates outside of the casino region in Connecticut declined by 11 percent.
Ledyard also saw a 200 percent increase in traffic on local roads. They note that casino customers are using local roads at significantly higher rates than the state highways which had been touted in initial impact plans as bearing the majority of the traffic burdens. They further noted that the increased cars and trucks were not contributing to a corresponding increase in visits to Ledyard businesses, but was simply through traffic to the casino complex.
And, Ledyard noted that because Foxwoods was an Indian casino, that the construction process circumvented all local zoning, public hearing requirements and environmental regulations for which the town then incurred significant legal costs to protect their citizen’s interest throughout the development, building, ongoing operation and expansion process.
Taunton will not be the only place that needs to negotiate with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to make sure their costs don’t outweigh the promised benefits of bringing a free from local jurisdiction and tax exempt Indian reservation casino resort complex to their community. Will the impacted citizens and businesses in Dighton, Raynham, Lakeville, Middleboro and Norton have any say or control?