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January 28, 2013

Editorial: No place for a 'slots' casino

Gloucester businessman Sam Parisi has a dog in the hunt, so to speak. But he’s absolutely right when he suggests that Danvers’ Liberty Tree Mall is hardly an “appropriate” site for what would be Massachusetts’ only exclusively “slots” casino in addition to the more anticipated casino resorts.

The news last week that a Maryland company has hopes for a sprawling slots parlor at the Danvers shopping mall caught most North Shore residents off guard. But in filing its last-minute application to the state, PPE Casino Resorts, an affiliate of The Cordish Companies, brought the North Shore into the casino debate through its proposal for the mall’s old Sports Authority store. And it paid a nonrefundable $400,000 state filing fee, showing it means business.

But is this any kind of business for a shopping mall that sits a quick drive from Cape Ann through an already congested section of our main artery, Route 128?

The short answer seems to be no. Parisi, who, with his wife, Rosalie, owns Glouester’s Lucky 7 game arcade and just opened a second Lucky 7 in Liberty Tree, says a slots casino would be far better served in sites such as existing dog racing tracks in Plainfield and Taunton – and he’s right.

As Rosalie noted, Lucky 7 simply awards gift certificates for prizes from its 40 machines there and 50 in Gloucester — certificates that draw prize winners back into the local economy. A 24-hour-a-day, 1,250-machine slot parlor at the old Sports Authority site at Liberty Tree would let players game for cold, hard cash. But a slots parlor of that magnitude would not fit into or boost Liberty Tree’s other businesses; it would overwhelm them, creating all sorts of new 24-hour security and public safety problems and likely discouraging shoppers who have no interest in hitting the slots.

In short, a slots casino inside Liberty Tree could do more economic harm than good. Here’s hoping our neighboring Danvers and regional officials recognize that, too.

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