New England battles for gaming dollars

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In business for nine years, Mr. Jones said his shop has been hit hard by the recession. Customers who used to stop in every week, he said, now get a trim every two or three weeks instead. Those who got a haircut every two or three weeks now show up every two months, if he’s lucky.

“You’re starting to feel the pinch,” he said as he took the clippers to a client’s hair, carefully trimming around the ears.

Much like Bay State officials, Mr. Jones sees gambling as a way to pump much-needed capital into the community.

David Dudley, a 29-year-old local businessman who took over his friend’s failing guitar shop in 2008, agrees.

“I’m all for it. I’ve got my chips right here,” he said, holding up a stack he keeps by the cash register of his small store, where guitars line the walls and musicians filter in and out for their weekly lessons.

An avid gambler and guitar teacher, Mr. Dudley, like Mr. Jones, said times have been tough. He has kept the store in business but says it’s often “dead.”

Despite the support of many business owners, others see potential problems, some as simple as clogged traffic along Milford’s winding, two-lane downtown corridor.

“I don’t care how you work this out, there are going to be more cars,” said Ray Ragucci, a 92-year-old retired police officer who has lived in Milford all his life. Talk of jobs, revenue and gambling addiction doesn’t interest Mr. Ragucci, who talked while sitting on the front porch of his small Main Street home.

Watching cars whiz by and clad in a neat white button-up shirt, dress pants and black loafers, he sat back in his lawn chair.

“I’m against it. Whatever money they make, it won’t be worth it,” he said.

Mr. Nunes has heard that argument before. To keep traffic from flooding downtown Milford, he hopes to build a separate exit off of Interstate 495 to be used solely for casino customers. While curious visitors likely would still find their way to Main Street, the never-ending traffic Mr. Ragucci fears would not become a reality, Mr. Nunes said.

‘It destroys communities’

Traffic isn’t the only sticking point. Many oppose gambling for reasons that can’t be cured with an offramp.

“Gambling is a quick fix,” said Paul Sharp, a 60-year-old lifelong Milford resident. Dubbed the “honorary mayor” of the town’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, Mr. Sharp said his state government is making a serious error by looking to gambling to cure its financial ills.

In trying to improve the economic conditions of its citizens, he fears, lawmakers unintentionally will cause financial hardships.

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