Revere casino supporters, foes share a tale of two cities
Picture a Revere and North Shore with tens of millions of dollars in new and improved roadways, thousands of workers with well-paying jobs and a booming tourism industry.
Now picture, as the Rev. David Martinez put it, a “hell” where the problems of addiction, crime and traffic would continue.
Those were the messages from the sides pushing for and against a proposed casino in Revere in the final hours before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s expected vote on Tuesday. The vote will decide if a new plan to locate a casino on 42 acres of the Revere side of Suffolk Downs can move forward despite voters in East Boston rejecting an agreement and voters in Revere approving of it.
Martinez, of the Tabernaculo Evangelico in Revere, was joined by other faith leaders from Revere and East Boston on Monday to express their opposition to the new Revere-only project at the racetrack.
“In the community we’ve got enough already. We’ve got addiction, we’ve got crime … Gambling is one more on the list,” Martinez said, adding that the jobs the casino would bring wouldn’t outweigh the consequences that would also come with the project.
“In the beginning it will look beautiful, but in the end it will look like hell,” he said.
Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’nai Israel in Revere said his concerns include traffic and if the potential jobs at the casino would pay a living wage.
“The bigger picture is that the casino would have a negative impact on the community,” said Berman. “If you look at a slice of it, it might look good.”
Proponents of the casino believe the proposal does look good.
Surrounded by municipal leaders from North Shore communities as well as members of local chambers of commerce, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo on Monday led the group in speaking about the economic benefits the casino would bring to the region.
“It’s the jobs, it’s the transportation improvements and it’s the economic development opportunities that’s going to spur from this,” Rizzo said. “Those are the benefits, the local investment that’s going to be spent in our local economies, those are the things that excite me.”
Rizzo said he expects that Revere would get more than $15 million in payments from the casino. Officials also said that they expect the project would bring 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs to the city.
Proponents also talked about what Revere would look like if the state gaming commission voted against the casino plan.
Officials from Suffolk Downs had said earlier that the future of racing is in doubt without a gaming development at the facility.
If Suffolk Downs were to close, it would be “devastating,” Rizzo said.
“We still have a 36 acre parcel in the middle of our city that’s barren. So I shudder to think what could happen over here on another 52 acres in the city of Revere if we’re not allowed to go forward with this project,” Rizzo said, referring to the Wonderland Greyhound Park that closed in 2010.
Bob Upton, president of the Revere Chamber of Commerce, sees the casino as an opportunity to improve the economy of not only Revere, but the entire North Shore.
“Travel and tourism is a huge segment that’s going to be rejuvenated, no question about that,” he said. “Depending on what your prospective is you can paint any picture you’d like, but I personally think this is a great opportunity.”
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.