Revere, Massachusetts casino referendum vote

Today’s the day: voters in Revere, Massachusetts will decide yay or nay on a possible casino at Suffolk Downs (Image: Pat Greenhouse (L) & Jessica Rinaldi (R) Boston Globe)

To build or not to build? That is the question before the voters of Revere, Massachusetts today, as the city will decide whether or not to approve a proposed casino at the Suffolk Downs racetrack. The vote will be coming at the end of a long, tumultuous process that has seen plans for a casino at the racetrack seemingly defeated, reworked, and once again brought back to life.

Mohegan Sun Could Rise or Set on Vote

Once Revere took up the cause of the Suffolk Downs casino project – one that is happening in partnership with Mohegan Sun – Mayor Daniel Rizzo predicted that his town would overwhelmingly support the new plan. After all, about 60 percent were happy to support the plan when the casino was going to mainly be built on the border in East Boston. But now, Rizzo is tempering expectations for what will happen on Tuesday.

“This is a pass/fail test,” Rizzo said. “If we thought there were style points for a larger margin of victory we’d have concentrated on that.”

Rizzo – who has himself remained staunchly pro-casino throughout – may be saying that publicly; but in reality, the margin of victory may well matter. State gambling regulators have said that the strength of local support for a casino will be a factor in which projects will receive each of the three licenses for casinos in the state.

If the Suffolk Downs casino is approved, it will still have to go up against a Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett for the sole Greater Boston license. And that project won its local referendum with an astounding 86 percent of the vote last June.

There’s little polling information available ahead of this vote, making the outcome a bit of a mystery for pundits and onlookers. And while Rizzo’s statements may make him seem confident of victory, opponents think that they’re in with a chance as well.

“Every day we’re feeling more and more confident we can beat this,” said Joe Catricala, founder of Don’t Gamble on Revere.

Still, casino experts think that beating this casino bid would be a massive upset.

“I think Revere should be as sure a win as you’re going to get in Massachusetts,” said University of Massachusetts Dartmouth casino expert Clyde Barrow. “The theme we’ve seen over and over in these referenda is distressed communities with low incomes and high rates of unemployment approve these referenda, and the bedroom communities and suburbs that are comparatively affluent with low rates of unemployment vote against it.”

Friends and Foes

The battles between casino advocates and opponents in Revere are similar to those seen in other towns. Supporters say that the casino will bring jobs and economic stimulus to the city, while those opposed fear bigger traffic jams and increased crime. Rizzo has said that Revere is particularly suited to handle these issues, though, since it already has two local racetracks at Suffolk Downs and Wonderland.

The Revere vote isn’t the only critical Massachusetts casino decision taking place this week. On Friday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will award the state’s sole slots parlor license. In contention are the Plainridge harness racetrack, along with Raynham Park and a Cordish Companies-backed venue in Leominster. For the racetracks, the hope is that adding slots could help reverse declining revenues that could eventually force them to close.