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Revere casino advocates get the jump on February vote

Posted by Marcia Dick  January 8, 2014 12:48 PM

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Kathy McCabe/Globe Staff


For the second time in four months, Revere voters will be asked to go to the polls Feb. 25 to approve a $1 billion resort casino proposed for the Suffolk Downs horse race track that straddles the East Boston line.

This time around, the project is different. The track has teamed up with Mohegan Sun of Connecticut to build a resort with two hotels, upscale shops, and restaurants on 42 acres that lie solely on the Revere side of the property.

Revere voters in November voted in favor of a separate proposal that would have built a resort on the East Boston side of the property. But East Boston voters soundly rejected it.

The state's gaming law requires local approval before a casino project can advance before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs are competing against a $1 billion resort casino proposed by Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn for the Everett waterfront, less than 2 miles from the race track.

A pro-casino group called "Revere Says Yes" held its first organizing meeting Tuesday night at the American Legion Hall on Broadway in Revere.

About 50 supporters turned out to eat pizza and cannolis in a meeting that was like a pep rally to a public meeting planned for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Revere City Hall. City officials will present a Host Community Agreement negotiated with Mohegan Sun.

At stake: Tens of millions of dollars that could reverse the fortunes of this blue-collar city best known for its crescent-shaped beach. The agreement calls for Mohegan Sun to make a one-time $33 million payment to the city, plus annual payments of $25 million to $30 million.

"That's money that will go right into the coffers of the City of Revere, if this project goes forward," Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, the project's chief cheerleader, told supporters Tuesday night.

The agreement also gives Revere residents hiring preference for 20 percent of the 4,000 permanent jobs the project promises to create.

"That's not just 800 jobs," said Louis Ciarlone, president of IBEW Local 103, the union representing about 160 track workers. "That's 800 good jobs."

Still, despite such rich promises of revenue and jobs, casino supporters are leaving little to chance at the ballot box. In the coming weeks, they plan to knock on doors, make phone calls, hold signs and coffee klatches to reach the city's 25,559 registered voters.

“We’ll be going ward by ward, precinct by precinct,” said Eddie Limoli, a field organizer for Friends of Mohegan Sun, a group backed by the Connecticut-based casino company. "We have a lot to do, in a short period of time."

Some senior citizens are ready to help.

"I'll hold signs, have coffees," said Rose Napolitano, 81, a retired receptionist at the Revere Housing Authority. "With this project, we might finally be able to get a new senior center. The place we have now is falling apart."

Gloria Hurley, 79, said she's game, too.

"I definitely want to get out there and hold signs," she said.

But a referendum held in February holds a different set of challenges than the vote held on Nov. 5.

A good many Revere seniors spend the winter in warmer climes. But absentee ballots should be available by two weeks ahead of voting day, supporters said.

Mother Nature, too, will have her say. Cold or snow could prompt some residents to stay home.

But Rizzo vows Revere will get out its vote.

"We're not blessed by the Feb. 25 date," Rizzo told supporters. "We have to make sure everyone gets to the polls. Every single vote is going to count, and we only have about 50 days to go."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@globe.com.

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