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Community outreach next step as casino plans unravel

As the Suffolk Downs Resort continues its push for a new $1 billion casino in association with Caesar’s Entertainment, casino opponents are pushing for more community education.

“In order to stop a casino license from being granted to Suffolk Downs, all residents in host communities need to do is vote ‘no’ in the referendum vote,” said Celeste Myers, co-chair of the community group No Eastie Casino.

The two cities must sign a community impact agreement in order for the casino to receive a license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will release the application for all potential gaming sites in mid-October, said Elaine Driscoll, a media contact for the commission, in an email.

But the proposed casino, which would straddle the town lines of Revere and East Boston, has faced strong opposition from both communities.

“When you increase the population coming into a region by 20,000 to 40,000 visitors per day, you will see a rise in all segments of that population that includes a seedy element,” Myers said. “Real data shows that not only does crime of that variety increase in host and surrounding communities, but also incidences of embezzlement skyrocket.”

The proposed Suffolk Downs casino to be situated on the municipal line between East Boston and Revere has split the community. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUFFOLK DOWNS

Myers said additional social impacts of a Suffolk Downs casino would be severely elevated incidences of depression, addiction, spousal abuse, divorce and suicide.

The casino would generate $200 million in tax revenue each year, and would also add more than 4,000 jobs for locals, according to a Suffolk Downs Press release.

“This is an opportunity to create a fiscal and economic boost for generations to come, recapturing Massachusetts discretionary spending that, for 20 years, has generated

billions of dollars in tax revenues and thousands of jobs in Connecticut and Rhode Island,” said Richard Fields, principal owner of Suffolk Downs, in a press release.

Fields said the casino is built upon “collaboration and partnership,” including with residents and community groups.

The Suffolk Downs proposal has “a commitment to create a venue that complements East Boston, Revere and surrounding communities,” he said.

But for casino opponents, the next step is community outreach and education, Myers said in a separate email interview.

Because local officials supported the bill without conducting an independent cost benefit analysis or communicating to residents about the process, the group “set out to schedule a series of information sessions to provide an overview of the bill, application process and very real impacts,” she said.

Other anti-casino groups that No Eastie Casino works with include No Revere Casino, Neighbors of Suffolk Downs and United to Stop Slots of Massachusetts, Myers said.

The casino has also faced some backlash from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has opposed the plan to build the casino in phases.

Driscoll said the commission has not drafted all the specific criteria for a casino development in the state.

“Generally, the Commission will determine an applicant’s suitability based on finances and integrity,” she said. “The Commission will seek applications that most effectively address issues of job creation, community mitigation, workforce development, diversity and tourism, among others.”

Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo has launched a community outreach campaign to hear the concerns of the community.

“We must ensure that every member of the community has a voice in the process and for that reason we will be out there in the neighborhoods soliciting input,” Rizzo said in a press release.

However, both Menino and Rizzo have shown general support for the economic benefits that the Suffolk Downs casino could bring.

“The pro-casino movement, aside from the Suffolk Downs management team and our local and state officials, seems largely an ‘astro-turf’ organization,” Myers said.

The Friends of Suffolk Downs, which is featured on the resort’s website, includes testimonials from community members that support the casino as well as extensive information on potential job opportunities.

“Should we earn a license, The Resort at Suffolk Downs will seek a diverse pool of candidates and offer full job training for 4,000 new jobs,” according to the Friends of Suffolk Downs website. The website promises an average annual salary of $40,000 as well as good benefits and opportunities for career advancement.

“[Supporters are] comprised primarily of track employees and others that have or hope for track and casino jobs or financial opportunities,” Myers said.

Suffolk Downs formally declared its intent to apply for a gaming license in August by filing all required forms and submitting the non-refundable application fee of $400,000 to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

5 Responses for “Community outreach next step as casino plans unravel”

  1. Doug Thompson says:

    In this economy we can’t afford not to build a casino. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. All people who care about creating jobs and boosting small businesses in East Boston and Revere should vote yes on a casino referendum.

  2. In this economy we cannot afford to impact existing jobs provided by our main street businesses. Nor can we afford to impact the hundreds of union jobs that are currently funded by lottery revenues – another entity that will take a hit should a casino be sited at Suffolk Downs, a mere stone’s throw from dozens of lottery agents and within clear range to impact revenues of lottery agents across the city.

  3. Doug,
    What if I told you casinos actually end up REMOVING jobs from the economy? (a U. of Illinois study found that every new slot machine removes one job per year because of $ being displaced from the consumer economy)

    And what if I told you that many of the “good jobs” promised here will be minimum wage, low benefit, hourly jobs? (they say the avg salary will be $42k, but that is factoring in management positions. The majority will be low-skill, low-wage jobs that already exist in the Boston hospitality industry.)

    Finally, what if I told you casinos KILL local businesses rather than boosting them? Casino moguls Steve Wynn and Donald Trump have even admitted this. Within a few years of the construction of the Atlantic City casinos, 66% of independent restaurants and bars had closed. This trend has played out in city after city after city since then.

    You believe what the casino big-wigs want you to believe, but it’s simply false. Please do some research. Then come support those of us who are trying to keep out a Trojan horse that will not easily be removed once it’s here.

    • gail miller says:

      Folks are not capable to dissecting what the costs are given this new industry coming to town. The impacts are huge…from traffic to schools, to loss of business….no one can even fathom what it means…they’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

  4. gail miller says:

    If a huge bureaucracy must be created to oversee this industry in our state, how is that getting paid for? From the proceeds that we are assumed to realize from the casino operating in our state?
    The Lottery Commission is huge (don’t know how huge) but I would think the Gambling Commission is going to be that much larger. What about those salaries? Will they be state jobs? Of course, and then there’s the pension aspect, the benefits aspect…and the costs go on and on.

    That’s why we need an independent cost benefit analysis to see what this really means by way of jobs (saleries, types of jobs), impacts on schools, housing, medical needs…the list of needs is a very long list…we need it spelled out.

    Then, after we get all the facts, perhaps the public would understand what the down side of a casino would bring.

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