Mohegan Sun casino friends, foes rally in Revere before Tuesday vote
As Revere residents prepare to head to the polls on Tuesday for a final roll of the dice, both sides on the city’s casino issue feel they have the odds in their favor.
Voters in Revere on Tuesday will decide whether to approve of a Host Community Agreement with Mohegan Sun on a $1.3 billon resort casino at Suffolk Downs. It is the second time Revere residents have been asked to vote on hosting a casino in their city.
“We really feel good about it,” said Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO Mitchell Etess. “It passed pretty well last time, but I think we’ve run a pretty thorough campaign and we’ve been getting the message out there.”
On the last weekend day before the special referendum, both sides held rallies on Sunday to urge people to get out and vote.
The group Friends of Mohegan Sun, which has received $400,000 from the gaming company since January, held a rally that resembled more of a luncheon at the Joseph Mottolo VFW hall in Revere. Casino supporters were given T-shirts and sat at large round banquet tables where they ate a lunch of chicken fingers, chowder and roast beef sandwiches from Kelly’s.
Besides executives from Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo also attended the pro-casino rally. He spoke with some of the people as they ate and shook hands.
Earlier Sunday, hundreds of casino opponents marched from the Immaculate Conception Church to Revere City Hall. Led by a marching band, the group held signs and chanted “No casino.”
“If you asked us back in January if we thought we could beat this, we would say probably not. But since then our confidence has been super boosted and we’re feeling more and more confident that we have a chance and can beat this,” said Joseph Catricala, a co-chair of the group Don’t Gamble on Revere.
During Sunday’s rally, lifelong Revere resident Linda Aufiero said her family suffered from alcohol and gambling addictions and feared those problems would impact others in the community.
“Our family suffered a lot,” she said.
Tuesday’s vote comes after the state gaming commission granted a waiver to Mohegan Sun in December as it considered the outcome of November’s split vote in which East Boston rejected the casino agreement and Revere approved of it. Revere voters approved of the initial agreement by a vote of 6,566 to 4,232.
After that vote, Mohegan Sun teamed with Suffolk Downs and created a new proposal that shifted the entire project onto 42 acres on the Revere side of the track.
Both sides make the same case for and against the casino that they did before the November vote. Supporters said the casino would mean jobs, financial comfort and a transformation for Revere. Opponents argue there will be more negative consequences than benefits that come with a casino like crime, traffic and robbing the city of its identity.
Even if voters approve of the agreement on Tuesday, it does not mean Revere is guaranteed a resort casino.
Mohegan Sun is competing with Wynn Resorts, which is planning a $1.6 billion project in Everett. Everett voters have already approved of the plan there during a vote in June.
If the vote fails, it means Wynn would not have competition for the Eastern Massachusetts casino license. If the plan succeeds, it means the state gaming commission will have to determine which gaming company gets the license. A decision is expected at the end of May.
“We’re hoping everyone makes the right choice,” Etess said.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.