MIDDLEBORO, Mass. -- "Wow," said Lorraine Reilly as she watched the third of four huge white tents being raised on the 25-acre high school field Thursday. The tents frame the field where 7,000 or more voters are set to vote on a landmark agreement to develop an Indian gaming casino in town.
"Wow," said Lorraine Reilly as she watched the third of four huge white tents being raised on the 25-acre high school field Thursday.
The tents frame the field where 7,000 or more voters are set to vote on a landmark agreement to develop an Indian gaming casino in town.
"You know the whole world will be here on Saturday," said Reilly, a 35-year resident.
The town meeting will make history, not only for its size but for its purpose. If approved, this would open the door for casino gambling, but it would only become a reality if the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approves the sovereignty of the land for the recently-recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the governor enters into a state compact with the tribe and the Legislature approves Class 3 gaming.
"Like it or not, I think it's a better deal for us," said Reilly.
"This is probably the best thing that could ever happen," said lifelong resident Charlene Brooks, who plans to attend Saturday's town meeting after sending her children to a relative's house in nearby Lakeville.
Brooks said the casino will bring jobs and revenue and she rejects reports that it will also bring crime and other social issues.
Tara Rose, a lifelong resident and mother of two, has not taken a position on the casino and will not attend town meeting.
"If child care was available, I'd be more apt to go," Rose said.
Children and pets are not welcome at town meeting, where security will be tight, access restricted and details important.
Moderator James V. Thomas did not appear flustered by the attention the meeting is getting in the media, on Beacon Hill and in communities throughout the region.
"This is, after all, just another town meeting," the 71-year-old moderator said. "It's huge in its importance and controversy, but it is just another town meeting."
His comments came before an hour-long, closed-door meeting Thursday at which security was the center of discussion. Sitting before a site map, the panel of police, fire, school and town officials discussed the logistics of moving thousands of people to the site, properly registering voters, providing information through speakers and taking a vote.
"It's going to progress naturally," Thomas said, mapping plans for action on three articles:
- Report of the Casino Gambling Study Committee.
- Casino agreement between the town and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
- Position on a casino in town.
Despite the planning, there are many unknowns:
- The number of voters who turn out.
- How long the meeting will last.
- The weather, which is the most important according to Thomas.
"They're promising thunder showers," Thomas said. "I don't know how that would affect things."
Elaine Allegrini can be reached at email@example.com.