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East Boston defeats casino proposal, but Suffolk Downs now eyes Revere project

Posted by Your Town  November 5, 2013 09:17 PM

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In one swift stunning blow, East Boston voters rejected casino dreams years in the making, defeating a $1 billion Suffolk Downs gambling resort project, a shocking turn for the state’s nascent casino industry and a prominent casino proposal once widely considered a lock to win the state’s most lucrative gambling license.

With the project winning a majority of support in Revere, however, Suffolk Downs will explore moving the entire development onto the Revere side of the city line, Chip Tuttle, the track’s chief operating officer, told the Globe.

In an official statement, Tuttle thanked the people of Revere “for their overwhelming vote of confidence in our project” and the people of East Boston “for allowing us to state our case for thousands of jobs for local residents.”

In Eastie, voters proved to be unmoved by big promises, pro-casino endorsements from powerful politicians — including Mayor Thomas M. Menino — and nearly $2 million in campaign spending by Suffolk Downs.

East Boston voter Krysten Hunt, 24, summed up the anti-casino position, saying she did not want more potential traffic, pollution, crime or gambling addiction in her neighborhood. “All that stuff? No, thanks,” she said. “It’s fine the way it is.”

The ballot box failure leaves the future of New England’s last thoroughbred racetrack in grave doubt. The 78-year-old track has been losing money for years, as its owners have pumped in money to keep the track afloat in anticipation of adding a profitable casino.

Mohegan Sun’s casino proposal for Palmer was also defeated Tuesday. Voters there defeated the referendum 2,657-2,564 with a staggering 66 percent turnout.

In Revere, one city official speculated on the future of the Suffolk Downs site.

Brian Arrigo, an at-large city councilor in Revere, said he was surprised by the vote of opposition by neighboring East Boston. He said he believed the many in the city, and its government, were anticipating voters would approve the project.

"We've already started to spend money as if we were going to get casino revenue," he said. "Now we have to figure out our plan for the financial health of the city."

Arrigo said the city had used about $1.5 million in rainy day funds in the last fiscal year, and needed to find new revenue for the city.

"I've been concerned from the beginning that we have not talked about a contingency plan," he said. "We've been a little shortsighted in that respect."

He also said he hoped some type of casino development could go forward on land exclusively in Revere that is owned by Suffolk Downs.

"If we are negotiating on our own, maybe we can get a better deal," he said.

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