By Jack Minch
LEOMINSTER -- Just winning the scheduled referendum vote on a proposed slots casino Sept. 24 isn't enough, said Joe Weinberg, managing partner for The Cordish Companies.
"We're hoping for a big turnout and a wide margin, so we can send a message to the state that the people in Central Massachusetts really want it," said Weinberg. "Because it's not just about winning the referendum vote, it's about getting the license."
The Cordish Companies sponsored Friday morning's North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce "Good Morning Breakfast" at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on Erdman Way.
The state Gaming Commission has said margins of victory in referendum votes will be considered when awarding a license to operate a slots casino. Mass Gaming & Entertainment, which had proposed a slots parlor for Millbury, said it abandoned that project because a narrow result was likely.
The Cordish Companies and its PPE Casino Resort MA LLC is proposing a casino with 1,250 slot machines and electronic games on Jungle Road. The competition for the state's sole slots-casino license started with a handful of proposals but has been whittled to just three. Cordish is competing with proposals at race tracks in Raynham and Plainville.
The casino could generate about 1,200 short-term and permanent jobs, Weinberg said.
"And if you look at the one-to-one multiplier, there will be another 1,200 jobs along with the direct jobs," Weinberg told about 230 business leaders gathered at the breakfast.
There are job opportunities in a number of fields ranging from entry level to executive, he said.
"That's a big issue in the North Central (Massachusetts region)," Weinberg said.
Residents will be given preference for jobs, he said. Leominster has a high unemployment rate compared to many other parts of the state and a good work ethic, so it doesn't appear to be a problem filling jobs locally, Weinberg said.
Cordish is already working with Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg State University on workforce development. The company also plans to focus on buying supplies from local businesses.
"We purchase all kinds of goods and services on a local basis," Weinberg said.
The casino could also create a financial windfall for the city. In a community host agreement with the city, Cordish agreed to annual payments that could be worth as much as $38 million over 10 years.
"We will be the largest taxpayer in Leominster," Weinberg said.
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