REVERE, Mass. (AP) - A billion-dollar resort casino proposal was left in the hands of voters in Revere on Tuesday.
The referendum will determine whether Mohegan Sun can move forward with its $1.3 billion proposal and compete with Wynn Resorts for the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino license.
A “no” vote would kill the Revere plan.
Strong feelings were evident on both sides in the blue collar city of about 53,000 residents just north of Boston. Home to Revere Beach, the nation’s first public beach, the city has struggled economically in recent decades and had an estimated unemployment rate of 7.2 percent at the end of 2013, according to state figures.
Along a section of Broadway, one of the city’s main arteries, casino backers and foes held signs Tuesday on opposite sides of the roadway, near a polling place. Motorists would occasionally honk horns to signal support for one group or the other.
Kevin Russell, a Revere resident and union carpenter, said the casino would be a “win-win” for the city, with the potential to create new jobs and generate revenue that would lead to lower property taxes and water bills. He dismissed critics’ concerns that the facility could bring an uptick in crime.
“They’re not going to build a billion-dollar casino to have bad elements there,” said Russell. “They want to bring in the good element with people coming from out of state, flying in, driving down.”
Members of Revere’s clergy have come out strongly against the casino in recent weeks, citing the dangers of gambling addiction and other social ills.
“It’s a slayer of souls,” said the Rev. George Szal, of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, as he held a sign urging a no vote. “It’s a slayer of families and ultimately of the community itself.”
The casino vote was the second in Revere in recent months. In November, voters approved an earlier proposal at the Suffolk Downs racetrack on the Boston-Revere line, but voters in the East Boston neighborhood rejected it. The new plan called for the casino to be built entirely in Revere, on land owned by Suffolk Downs.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said the casino would secure the city’s economic future for generations, pointing to a host community agreement with Mohegan Sun would guarantee Revere up to $33 million in upfront payments and between $25 million and $30 million in annual payments if the casino was built.
Supporters heavily outspent opponents in the weeks leading up to the vote. A campaign finance report filed Feb. 8 shows that Mohegan Sun contributed $400,000 to a committee formed to help win passage of the referendum. The opposition group Don’t Gamble on Revere said it had raised just over $11,000 through Feb. 7, according to its report.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will have the final say on the awarding of casino licenses. Wynn Resorts has proposed a $1.6 billion resort casino in Everett, barely three miles from the Revere site.
The commission on Tuesday separately began final deliberations on the awarding of the license for the only slots parlor - a smaller type of casino - that is allowed under the state’s gambling law. The panel is choosing between proposals in Leominster, Plainville and Raynham, with a decision expected by Friday.