TEWKSBURY—Vincent Fratalia, a native of Charlestown, left the city to get away from what a casino might represent: crime, partying, traffic.
As such, he doesn’t want Penn National Gaming to open a casino in Tewksbury.
“It’s not a good mix for Tewksbury,” he said. “I’m just not in favor.”
He’s associated with “No Slots Tewksbury,” a group that operates a Facebook page in opposition to the casino.
The group consists of people who are “dead-set against what [the casino] will do to the town.”
“When you bring 4 to 5,000 cars in a day, you can’t help but change the character of the town,” he said. “I’d hate to see something like this come in and change the town forever.”
He admits that he sees the financial upside, but he thinks that “the downside is greater than the upside.” He also noted that he’s “not against gambling,” but he “doesn’t want it close by.”
Right now, he and other members of the group are attempting to contact other members of the town.
And he noted that not everyone knows about the proposal. He mentioned that he talked to someone who had no idea that slots were potentially coming to Tewksbury.
“It’s an uphill battle,” he said. “But I think it’s worth the effort.”
Especially since he thinks that the casino won’t lower crime.
“We have enough crime in this town,” he said. “That slots parlor isn’t going to help them out.”
His sentiments echoed those of Bruce Paniliatis.
Paniliatis, a Connecticut native, has seen what casinos can do to communities.
“I remember when Foxwoods was a bingo parlor. So, I remember what it did to that area of the state,” he said. “So my initial reaction was negative.”
Still, he wanted to do his research on the Penn National proposal, sending an e-mail to Selectman Scott Wilson.
They talked. He examined the proposal.
And he said that his research validated his sentiments—that the casino would be “a bad idea.”
Since then, he has been active with the “No Slots” group. He said that he has contacted friends in order to “organize it as much as [he] can.”
Members of the group have formed committees that will focus on yard signs and canvassing.
But an obstacle is time.
“We weren’t given a whole lot of time to get organized,” he said. “We’ve got weeks. We’re doing the best we can.”
He said the casino will likely yield dire consequences.
“Should this go through, we’re going to see a flight of professional people from town,” he said. He specifically mentioned those who are involved with PACs and youth sports.
“Those people are going to have the means to go somewhere else—and are going to,” he said. “It’s going to be the beginning of a bad time in Tewksbury.”
Through his church, he has met many young families who have talked about leaving.
“You’re going to find people looking for other options,” he said. People will choose to live in Wilmington or Billerica—not Tewksbury.
“It’s just a bad deal for the town,” he said.
He also questioned the proposed revenue figures.
“It’s not going to generate the revenue they say it’s going to,” he said. The host agreement contains “a lot of outs.”
“They’re selling us on the positives of the deal and ignoring the negatives,” he said, which include gambling addictions as well as unfair competition with local businesses.
“I can’t imagine being a business owner in town—if people are going to spend a little over forty bucks in the slot machine, that’s forty bucks” that could have been used for beer or food, he said.
He added: “They’re going to suffer for it.”
Paniliatis said he understands that the town doesn’t have a lot of revenue options, which is why “he doesn’t particularly blame the Selectmen or the Town Manager.”
But he thinks the town should look elsewhere.
“I hope we do that,” he said.
The “No Slots Tewksbury” group will be meeting at the Tewksbury Country Club on August 13 at 7 p.m.