New Bedford Voters Said Yes Twice to Hosting a Casino
The vote wasn't even close.
A special referendum election held in New Bedford seven years ago this week asked residents their views on a $650 million casino being prosed for the city's waterfront by KG Urban Enterprises. They said "yes."
On June 23, 2015, about 21 percent of New Bedford's roughly 54,000 eligible voters participated in the special election. The vote was 8,355 or 73 percent in favor of the casino project, to 3,040 or 27 percent opposed.
The Foxwoods Resort Casino, located on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation in Connecticut, would have managed KG Urban's New Bedford casino.
The casino project fell apart when concerns that a Native American casino might advance in Southeastern Massachusetts, known as Region C by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, resurfaced.
Those ongoing concerns, as well as the construction of two casinos and a slots parlor in Massachusetts, have led to the commission holding back on issuing a commercial casino license in Region C.
KG Urban's New Bedford project received only lukewarm support from the Mitchell Administration and some in the fishing industry who felt the location was all wrong. Still others worried a casino would increase crime and traffic in the area.
The casino was planned for the former Eversource/Sprague power plant property on MacArthur Drive. As reported last year by WBSM News, the Mitchell Administration has a new plan for that property it says will create thousands of new jobs, including some in the offshore wind industry.
Governor Charlie Baker was in New Bedford last week to announce a new commitment to the city and its role in developing the offshore wind industry.
The 2015 referendum was not the first time that New Bedford voters were asked their views on hosting a casino. Eighty percent of New Bedford voters in 1993 voted in favor of a non-binding referendum asking about hosting a casino. Twenty-six percent of eligible voters participated in the balloting.
At that time then-Mayor Rosemary Tierney was attempting to locate a casino or bingo hall at the Whaling City Municipal Golf Course.