We’ll be covering the slots-related items at the City Council meeting tonight.
Items of Public Interest
7:47: Colin Novick: speaking to item 10c – since the last time the Council came to order, much information has come before you. Report of Chief of Police, Chamber of Commerce, Commissioner of Public Health – all reports confirm what research clearly shows. Will undermine city’s hard work. Read the reports — they are clear. Dedicate yourselves for what is best for this city. Have the courage to act. Worcester is waiting for you to act.
Chris Robarge – item 8q – Nicole Apostola’s Open Meeting Law complaint. He found all the doors were locked at 8:50 and was only able to enter when someone else left the building. Would like to ask that procedures be reviewed. Does not believe it was malicious, but people need to be able to access the building while meetings are going on.
Deb Eckstrom, Community HealthLink - 9.17A – Risks associated with electronic gaming. Now that we would have this public health risk, there is no place in Worcester to treat gambling addiction. Can lead to substance abuse. They have 3700 admissions to detox every year. Over 60% are City of Worcester residents, 30% Worcester County. They can only see that need going up if a slots parlor comes to Worcester. Asks that “menace” not be visited on city.
Steve Quist – item 10c – quite an in-depth report from police chief. Sign of opportunity. Class of firemen and policemen — this shows that this could be a positive effect. Mitigation could give relief to area under siege. Chief needs tools to move forward. Unless the opponents are going to come up with other forms of revenue for the city… This will lift whole entire area up.
Kathleen Pagano – item 10a – the research is clear on urban slots parlors. 1) This is not economic development. Shifting citizen spending from one sector to another. 2) Likely a net loss of jobs. 3) Slots are 3-4 times more addictive than any other form of gambling. 4) Robberies increase by 100%, the list goes on and on. City Council – take a hard look at the data from within and beyond the city. If slots go to referendum, asks that vote not happen during summer months.
Ed Moynihan – item 9.17a and supplement 1 – 1-2% will become pathological gamblers, 3-4% problem gamblers. Adds up to $9.7 million in annual criminal costs. Colllege students – 4% pathological and more problem gamblers. Substantially more crime on college campuses near gambling venues.
Jo Hart – would like city manager to lay out how the hotel situation (vis-a-vis the slots parlor) happened. How did they get the idea we wanted it, because they say they do not want it.
[someone whose name I didn't catch] – A lot of people who need jobs in this community. Hoping they will continue dialog. Need to figure out a way to help reduce crime, slots parlor can pay $2-4 million for this. He is in support of slots as well as electronic gambling.
8:38 – Rushton – we are about 25% the size of Springfield’s project, 20% of Everett’s. Seeing upfront payments of $30 million in Everett, $25 million in Springfield. You’re looking at a $1-4 million range. Whole host of things dealing with addiction, job training. From fiscal point of view, benchmark is there. Has to be significant payments on a yearly basis to make community host agreement work. Compare it fractionally to Everett and Springfield. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia cannot give any reports on whether crime has gone up or down.
Rushton asks whether or not manager has been able to retain an outside consultant.
The manager says they are interviewing prospective firms. Conflicts in this industry that run deep; need someone who works solely for the city’s best interest. There are differences in nature of revenues between full casinos and slots parlors.
Rushton wants to see what can be done for local procurement.
City manager says they are ready to go forward to negotiate a development deal. They have done many of these deals, and they have in-house talent.
(He mentions land that has been purchased for the hotel. Unclear which hotel he is talking about.)
Rushton – will we be re-engaging with Mr. Friedman?
City Manager – has no confirmation that there will be a hotel in downtown or particular site. Work in process between two private parties.
Rushton – wants CM to ask Messrs Bluhm, Friedman, and Eppinger where they are in negotiations. For next week’s meeting.
Councilor O’Brien: wants to table items so that Councilor Rivera can ask questions about tthem.
Lukes: Transparency is becoming an issue in this process. Question about Springfield and Everett host agreements.
CM: all host agreements are on Mass Gaming Commission website.
8:51 – Councilor Lukes said that when she met with the developers individually, heard that the hotel was the priority and the slots were there to subsidize it. Surprised at Joint Commission that city wanted it. Should she believe anything from the developers going forward? This was a significant part of the project. All she heard at Joint Committee meeting was casinos, not slots parlors. Didn’t hear much about hotel except that the city wanted it. If it’s part of a mitigation, where it’s an afterthought, or part of original package — should get it straightened out before host agreement.
CM — This developer came forward (Carpenter and Rush Street Gaming) proposed slots parlor and hotel. There is history of conversations in full-service hotel in downtown. Developers are aware of this. There is no bait and switch by this administration. (“The truth, the whole truth, so help me God”) They proposed slots parlor and hotel. They have at this juncture very little information about the hotel.
Lukes — I was not accusing the administration of bait-and-switch, but developer. Friedman wanted to build hotel, went to his friend Bluhm for help. That is what Friedman told her.
Lukes — we lost 250 rooms with Crowne Plaza, this full-service will only give us 150 rooms.
Palmieri – We need something similar to what the Gaming Commission will approve. “I don’t think this moves forward with just a slots parlor.” (That is, no hotel)
9:14 – Councilor Lukes asks what has been done to date, and what needs to be done, on the Wyman-Gordon site, and which use is appropriate based on the current level of site cleanup.
Councilor Lukes will also ask at the next City Council meeting (May 14) whether the vote on the slots parlor can happen at the same time as the preliminary election.
So — the police chief’s report (supplemental 1) is held for Councilor Rivera to comment next week. Everything else (items 10a-h) goes to the administration for report.