With the delayed signature of Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo on Aug. 28, an official plan for a casino resort in East Boston is set for referendum in the coming weeks.
The plans to build onto the Suffolk Downs horse racing track on the East Boston-Revere city lines are projected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which will be required to be distributed to the neighboring cities, according to the host community agreement between the offices of Rizzo and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
“The city of Revere negotiated its own host community agreement, but the makeup of this project is that there are two host communities involved, and that is in the spirit of how Boston works with its neighbors to make sure that everyone benefits from this large-scale economic development opportunity,” said Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Menino’s office.
The casino would be phased in rather than built all at once, which is against wishes Menino publicly expressed while the plans were being made.
Before the casino can be built, though, it must first pass a public referendum. The exact date is not yet known, but city law mandates there must be at least 60 days between the signing and the vote.
The vote can possibly be expanded to the entire city, but it is by default made just for those in the East Boston community.
While the plan is still several steps from construction or full operation, officials from Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment, the two owners of the casino and hotel, said in a press release on Aug. 27 that the project would not only bring economic benefits to the region but also cultural benefits.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort that befits Boston and complements the vibrant array of cultural, historic and entertainment offerings that exist here,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, president and CEO of Caesars. “Boston is ideally suited for our city-integrated resort model.”
Menino signed the deal for Boston on Aug. 27 and it requires the owners of the project to pay East Boston $33.4 million up front to fund community improvement projects. It also requires them to pay an annual fee of more than $32 million dollars once it is operational, according to the Boston agreement.
Revere will separately receive approximately $15 million annually, according to the Revere agreement.
The project would, in total, also create more than 6,000 jobs. East Boston and Revere residents would get preference for the estimated 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs, according to both agreements.
While that level of job creation could be promising, Celeste Myers, co-chair of the No Eastie Casino advocacy group, said the exact job descriptions, which are not yet available, are among the many concerns about the project.
“An impact analysis would be a good step,” Myers said. “We know what they were weighing when they made the agreements, but this is huge. Addiction will definitely manifest in the community. It can increase crime. It will change quality of life overall. Even job profiles are in the dark, and that’s a simple thing.”
In the time before the casino is potentially put to a referendum vote, Myers hopes the topic will get more attention in the media with the release of the agreement and the debates and campaigns from candidates to replace Menino as mayor in November.
“This has been an issue that has been brewing since 2011, and a lot of folks in electoral positions and those vying for Mayor have refrained on commenting about this until the agreement was made,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting more feedback as to whether they think this is worth the social and monetary price tag placed on this. I’m looking forward to action.