Downtown Boston Is the Only Place for a Casino

Monday, February 14, 2011

Palmer is a good place to live, but it has never been known for the quality of its nightlife.

Fall River has a proud history as a shipping and manufacturing center, but tourists have never flocked there.

East Boston has fine restaurants and lively neighborhoods, but it will never be mistaken for a resort community.

None of the above facts has prevented casino developers from looking at Palmer, Fall River and East Boston and seeing, The Next Foxwoods!

Their vision is as skewed as it is limited.

Sure, you can take a hundred or so acress off Exit 8 of the Mass. Turnpike, slap up a casino in less than a year, and gamblers will come from miles around to watch the roulette wheels spin. And, yes, it will be easy for bettors to find their way to The Palmerpalooza from 495 and the Pike.

But is that reason enough to turn virgin land into parking lots and hotels, and to change drastically, and for all time, the life of a nice Western Massachusetts town?

Likewise, should a prime industrial parcel in Fall River, which state and local leaders have long targeted for development as a new, jobs-intensive manufacturing hub, get the casino makeover because our economy is sputtering and manufacturers are holding back for now?

Likewise, should Suffolk Downs be allowed to reinvent itself as Vegas on the Blue Line because horse racing is on its final turn and something has to be done with the old racetrack and all the land that goes with it? (Never mind that it can take you an hour to get to Suffolk by car from downtown at rush hour.)

I say NO to all of the above.

If we are at last going to have casino gambling -- and there are many signs at the Massachusetts State House that we are -- wouldn't it be better to start with just one casino?

And wouldn't it be better to put that casino in a place that is already all built up, already a crossroads of multiple modes of transit, a place where entertainment, dining, major league sports and various forms of recreation are already a big part of the economy, and where millions of tourists already congregate every year?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: downtown Boston!

Consider, for example, how well a multi-story casino complex atop the tracks at South Station could work.

There has been talk for years of exploiting the air rights over South Station to create jobs and revenue for the city and state. But nothing has yet come of that.

[Next: The advantages of a downtown site like South Station.]

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