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BOSTON -- By unanimous vote, Dec. 10, the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to put a Revere-only casino proposal before voters in that city.
The vote gave Mohegan Sun, a Connecticut casino company, and Suffolk Downs, owner of a Massachusetts racetrack and the land in Revere, one week to request a waiver from commission rules that required a certified referendum vote before the Dec. 31 casino application deadline. Mohegan Sun would have to negotiate a new host community agreement with the city of Revere and put the agreement before voters as early as February.
A Nov. 5 election previously put the proposed casino before voters in East Boston and Revere because the proposed development was on both side of the city lines. Voters in East Boston turned down the project by a vote of 4,281 to 3,353, while voters in Revere accepted the project 6,566 to 4,232. Under the host community agreement at the time both communities had to approve before the project began, so the vote in East Boston functionally killed the project.
Supporters of the casino in Revere, including Mayor Dan Rizzo, immediately began pushing for a deal to put a casino entirely within the Revere-side of the property owned by Suffolk Downs. Suffolk Downs was also forced to find a new partner for the deal after it dropped an arrangement with Cesears Entertainment late October because of concerns over background checks.
Opponents of the casino, including chairperson of Repeal the Casino Deal John F. Ribeiro, said the voters' rejection sent a clear message about the project and that the new proposal has been allowed to sidestep the original requirements for the building of a casino.
"Now they are allowing them to just bypass all of that, and come in at the last minute with an entirely new proposal having missed all the previous deadlines, short-circuiting that process, and now requiring a new vote in short order," Ribeiro said.
"What the gaming commission has done, in my layman's estimation, has broken both the law and their own rules," he said.
He said he also sees the new vote as an opportunity for Revere casino opponents to organize.
"I have already had phone calls and people reaching out to me from Revere wanting help in organizing," Ribeiro said.
In November, the vote appeared to have stifled the project, but the Dec. 10 decision by the gaming commission put the issue back on the table assuming Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs request a waiver from the Dec. 31 deadline within a week.
Ribeiro also said his organization recently received word that they have gathered enough signatures in a petition to repeal the casino law statewide.
"We have learned from the secretary of state's office that we do have enough signatures to move to the next step. We do have to fight a legal battle to get the attorney general's decision overturned that denied us being on the ballot next year, but we think we are on very strong legal footing to do that, so we should see a question on next November's ballot asking all residents of Mass. whether they want to have casinos or not," Ribeiro said.