Mayor ‘disappointed’ about New Bedford casino proposal failure

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The city of New Bedford is dusting itself off after a surprise blow earlier this week when a developer withdrew its proposal to build a casino there.

New York-based developers KG Urban Enterprises withdrew their plans for a casino late Wednesday, citing financing issues.

Officials have said in the past that a waterfront casino in the city would have brought visitors and hundreds of jobs to the area.

“We’re disappointed. And candidly, we are very disappointed that we were lead down the road to believe that it was all in place. That financing would be ready and available for this project. We feel like we’ve been lead down the primrose path,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell.

But Mitchell said that a casino is not the only way to bring jobs and tourism to the city — and that it is time to move forward.

“This community will not be a victim. It cannot be a victim. We will not wallow in self-pity,” Mitchell said.

The mayor said the city will continue with its economic development plan detailed in a 2014 “Regeneration” report. The report calls for modernizing downtown and growing the Port of New Bedford, which is where the casino would have been built. The report never mentions a casino as an option to revitalize the city.

“The casino was…a means to an end. It wasn’t an end itself,” Mitchell said. “We were never trying to build a casino-based economy here.”

While the casino was estimated to bring 2,000 to 3,500 jobs to New Bedford, Mayor Mitchell says the city was already adding jobs; 5,000 in the past four years.

Some residents are disappointed too, saying they were looking forward to the possibility of a casino. The plan was overwhelmingly supported by voters in June.

“I was really looking forward to the casino because it would be a job opportunity,” said Marquis Alfonso.

“It’s an attraction, it brings people to your city,” added Vaughnay Rose, who added she thinks New Bedford still has plenty to offer.

“There’s more to New Bedford than a casino,” said Joe Michaud of the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the casino’s most outspoken opponent, David Lima, wasn’t celebrating the news.

“The casinos do not have the community in mind,” he said, describing himself as ‘angry.’ Lima opposed the casino plan because he didn’t believe the developers consider the local area’s needs. “We’re not going to be defined by KG Urban. We’re going to be defined by us.”

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted Thursday to accept KG Urban’s withdrawal.

Now that New Bedford is off the table, there’s only one proposal left for a casino in southeastern Massachusetts — Brockton. The Commission has one permit left, designated for southeastern Mass.

The commission is moving forward as planned and has not commented on whether or not it would withhold awarding the state’s third and final casino license.

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