Proposed Tewksbury Casino Good For Methuen, Merrimack Valley

D.J. Deeb
Former Dracut School Committeeman DJ Deeb

The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on July 18 to move forward a process that will let Tewksbury residents vote on whether or not to allow a Casino in their town. Tewksbury Selectmen should be commended for making the right decision in moving this proposal forward despite opposition from some powerful anti-casino interests.

Although additional hearings and votes will need to take place before the proposal moves forward to its final stages, this is a major step in the right direction. Penn National Gaming is proposing opening a $200 million complex called Hollywood Casino to be located on Ames Pond Road in Tewksbury. The proposal constitutes a win for not only Tewksbury, but the entire Merrimack Valley region.

If approved, the Casino, which will be called Hollywood Casino, would contain approximately 1,250 slot machines on a 30-acre complex located at 300 Ames Pond Road on the Tewksbury-Andover town line.

The project is estimated to cost nearly $200 million. It will generate approximately $4 million per year in tax revenue for Tewksbury, including $3 million in property taxes, and would create more than 500 new jobs in the Casino itself. In addition, more than 1,000 construction jobs will be created in order to construct the Casino itself. This is just what the Merrimack Valley needs: more jobs! Following the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen vote, Tewksbury Selectmen Chair Scott Wilson correctly noted, “I think this represents a tremendous economic opportunity for the town to explore. Up front, it will provide construction jobs and later there will be permanent jobs.

Plus, it would help pick up the town and help struggling business.” In expressing optimism for the endeavor, Selectman Doug Sears commented, “Once people see that it’s in the best interest of the town, I believe they’ll support it. If people say they don’t want it, then they’re saying they don’t want $4 million each year for infrastructure needs. Sears added, “How else are we going to find that kind of money?” Selectman Sears stated further, “The town of Tewksbury needs an influx of business capital, and this would also help attract customers to the surrounding businesses.”

Organized opposition to the Casino has already begun to mount. Many residents in Tewksbury and Andover are voicing opposition to the proposal. One opponent is State Senator Barry Feingold (D-Andover). Feingold has stated, “I’ve always been against extended gaming, and whether it’s in my district or outside the district, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I like Senator Feingold personally and reasonable people can disagree, but this project is clearly a no-brainer in my view. People are going to gamble regardless of whether they gamble here or they go to Connecticut or to Providence.

ere the Merrimack Valley stands to benefit with over 1,500 good new jobs being created and annual tax revenues of at least $4 million being generated locally in addition to new revenues generated for the Commonwealth. Not only will this project create new jobs for Merrimack Valley residents and generate more tax revenue, it will likely benefit local businesses, restaurants and hotels as well. The valley has plenty of fine restaurant establishments that could attract new businesses from across the state and New Hampshire.

This will likely create even more jobs and result in more tax revenue for surrounding Merrimack Valley cities and towns, including Methuen. Penn National Gaming is a very reputable company that currently operates casinos in 17 states and Ontario, Canada. Tewksbury and the Merrimack Valley are fortunate to have this opportunity to bring Penn National to the region.

The “not in my backyard” mentality needs to take a backseat for the greater good. I certainly would not mind if they put a Casino near my home in Methuen. Unfortunately, I do not think Methuen has the available space for this to happen. Tewksbury and Andover residents, as well as local and state officials, should get on board with this proposal and work honestly with Penn State Gaming to address legitimate traffic and congestion concerns in order to move this project forward.

D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident. He served as a member of the Dracut School Committee from 2005-2008 and the Greater Lowell Regional Voc-Tech School Committee from 1997-2009. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He teaches Social Studies full-time at Reading Memorial High School.