It's supposed to be great, the potential for approximately 13,000 jobs encompassing every skill level and guaranteeing a better brighter Fall River. This is what the Mayor, Ken Fiola, Joan Menard and others are trying to sell us that Fall River can have both a resort casino AND a BioPark!
OH GOODY! This is it Fall River has finally hit the jackpot! Or has it?
Don't book your reservations for that destination-resort just yet! Before this 'shovel-ready' (Boy do I have a double meaning for that!) project can get underway the legislature will have to vote to allow a casino on the BioPark land, since the language of the land transfer back in 2002 specifically forbids it. NO PROBLEM we're told, except some of those voting are going to be interested in getting a casino in THEIR districts, so wouldn't voting against this be a great way to nip a Fall River casino in the butt? And let's not forget that a bill legalizing casinos hasn't even passed yet, and if and when it does the Governor has already suggested that potential sites would have to be vetted for suitability. If that didn't complicate things enough the folks at UMD are starting to express some displeasure at Fall River's sudden change of heart and while publically stating they want to work with Fall River, they've expressed little interest in any proposed alternatives for the BioPark. Meanwhile as Flanagan and crew try to keep UMD on the back burner long enough to make this gambling thing happen New Bedford's Mayor Lang steps in says 'hey, if Fall River doesn't want a BioPark New Bedford would be proud to step in'. Of course Kenny Fiola expressed some polite displeasure over New Bedford potentially hurting what we're trying to develop but isn't that what we're doing to New Bedford by pushing for a competing casino proposal?
Suddenly, Will, Kenny, and Joan look like circus performers trying to keep all the plates spinning on poles without having any of them fall of.
Now if all the above didn't get the plates wobbling enough for you, the word from Boston is if a casino is going to be built instead of a biopark, well then those developers should have to pay the bill for all the infrastructure work that the state was planning to do for the biopark. I can only imagine the Wampanoag's were less than thrilled with the idea of paying out the estimated 35 Million dollars. And speaking of less than thrilled, a meeting on Monday had the majority of the city delegation and a bulk of our city councilors speak out against the casino proposal. And now 4 councilors have signed a resolution in opposition to siting a casino "at the land dedicated for the creation of the SouthCoast BioPark."
Despite all the cheery talk the reality is a casino is no sure thing and pursuing it puts the BioPark (which was a sure thing) at serious risk. Despite all the assurances it's starting to look like that instead of getting both, we're going to have to pick one or the other, and if we're not careful we may get nothing at all.