Boston City Council: Only East Boston to Vote on Suffolk Downs Casino Plan
Putting to bed what had been a bit of a hotly contested issue in the city of Boston – whether the city as a whole or just East Boston would be allowed to vote on a casino referendum for a new development in that neighborhood – last week Boston’s City Council determined that just the neighborhood should have a say.
Council wants only those nearby to vote
What voters will be heading to the polls to approve – or perhaps disapprove – is a plan between Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment to build a new casino resort at the existing site of the Suffolk Downs race track in East Boston.
Under the terms of Massachusetts gambling law, before state gaming regulators can award a casino operating license, communities must approve by voter referendum a host agreement between the casino and the community.
The law permits citywide votes to be held when applicable, however the Boston Globe reported that despite fevered opinions on both sides of the issue, the Council ultimately believed only those residents closely impacted by the construction and operation of the casino ought to vote in the referendum, now scheduled to take place on the same date as citywide municipal elections, November 5th.
Voter turnout is expected to be high at the polls on November 5th, as the city will be replacing Mayor Thomas Menino, who is leaving his post after more than two decades. He is the longest-serving mayor in Boston history.
For his part, Mayor Menino is of the opinion that only East Boston residents should be permitted to vote on the casino proposal, a sentiment echoed by the area’s Councilor, Salvatore LaMattina.
“What if the whole city votes to support this casino, and East Boston votes no?” LaMattina asked.
Most companies have had success at the polls
With the results of the election still over a month away, early projections are that residents will approve the casino. If that comes to pass, the Suffolk Downs/Caesars project will join the likes of Wynn and MGM. Both companies have found support for their plans from local voters.
Only one company, that being Hard Rock, has garnered a “no” vote. In the case of the East Boston project, while vocal, the opposition’s complaints are of the standard sort lobbied when a land-based casino is proposed. Concerns about increased traffic, pollution, and potential problem gambling have all been voiced in opposition to the East Boston casino development.
Caesars sees big opportunity in Boston
Caesars seems to have little concern about their foes, however, with company CEO Gary Loveman telling reporters last week that he sees Boston as having the potential to become a second U.S. gaming hub, behind only Las Vegas.
Noting that excitement for casino gambling runs high in Massachusetts and in neighboring states such as Connecticut and Rhode Island from which the casino will certainly draw patrons, Loveman said, “We will have very high caliber gaming enthusiasts. They will find a place they will find very appealing.”
Chip Tuttle, who is the head of Suffolk Downs, likewise was unfazed by opposition, pointing out that politicians who have not supported the state’s efforts to expand land-based casino gambling have found voters abandoning them.
“If you look around the city, the candidates who took anticasino positions didn’t seem to do very well at all. And a lot of the candidates who were for an East Boston-only question — candidates who affirmed their support of our development — seemed to do very well. That’s indicative of the support that this proposal has around the city,” Tuttle was quoted as saying.
Massachusetts regulators plan to hand down their final decisions early next year. The state will be awarding three licenses for resort-style casinos in addition to one license for a slots only gambling parlor.